Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

March 22, 2014

Cowboys eliminated from NCAA tournament by Gonzaga

SAN DIEGO — Marcus Smart wasn't quite ready to state the obvious, that he had played his final game for Oklahoma State and will declare early for the NBA draft.

Markel Brown fought back tears while talking about his four years with the Cowboys.

The season came to a tough end for Smart and the ninth-seeded Cowboys, who lost 85-77 to eighth-seeded Gonzaga in a West region game in the NCAA tournament in which 61 fouls were called and five players fouled out.

Smart passed on the NBA draft last year, wanting to return to Oklahoma State after the Cowboys' season ended with a disappointing loss to Oregon in their NCAA opener.

He said the loss to Gonzaga doesn't really change his mind about declaring for this year's draft, "but that's not my focus right now. This team is my focus. I'm still a part of this team right now."

Smart went out with a big effort — 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and six steals for Oklahoma State (21-13). He was 12 of 19 from the line.

"This loss is painful for us, so that's the least of my worries right now," said Smart, who is projected to be a high NBA draft pick. "I'm worried about this team and my teammates and this great group of guys."

The Cowboys won five of seven games coming in, a run that coincided with Smart's returning from a three-game suspension for shoving a Texas Tech fan.

Brown, who scored 20 points, grew emotional talking about his time with the Cowboys.

"I've had a great time here at OSU," he said. "I have had a chance to play under the best coaches in America. They made it worthwhile. I've gotten better every year. I'm going to miss these guys, playing out there, wearing this jersey. It's hard to go out like that."

Kevin Pangos scored 26 points and Gary Bell Jr. added 17 for Gonzaga, (29-6), which moves on to play top-seeded Arizona on Sunday.

Pangos made 12 of 14 free throws, including 10 of 10 in the last 1:31. The final 3½ minutes took 24 minutes to play. It was seven off the record for fouls in a tournament game set by Iowa and Morehead State in a regional semifinal game in 1956.

The Cowboys were called for 33 fouls, with Le'Bryan Nash, Kamari Murphy and Leyton Hammonds fouling out. The Zags made 26 of 41 free throws. The Zags were called for 28 fouls, with Sam Dower Jr. and Kyle Dranginis fouling out. The Cowboys made only 22 of 37 from the stripe.

Gonzaga big man Przemek Karnowski hurt the Cowboys inside, with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Dranginis scored 12.

Markel Brown scored 20 for Oklahoma State and Phil Forte had 12.

The Cowboys whittled a 10-point deficit down to three with 11:24 to go before Bell hit a 3-pointer for a 56-50 lead with 11:08 to go. Pangos made a layup and Brown answered for the Cowboys. Karnowski hit the front end of a one-and-one and Pangos hit a 3-pointer for a 10-point lead with 7:46 left.

Gonzaga led 43-34 at halftime, getting consecutive 3-pointers from Drew Barham and Kevin Pangos in the closing minutes.

Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford was whistled for a technical foul with 11.1 seconds left. Pangos missed the first free throw and made the second. Ford had been on the refs ever since the Cowboys were whistled for six fouls and a traveling call in a span of 1:40 midway through the half.

Gonzaga went on an 8-2 run to take a 33-24 lead, making five of six free throws and getting a 3-pointer from Dranginis.

Oklahoma State then went on a 9-1 run to pull to 34-33. Smart had two free throws and a jumper.

Gonzaga pulled away on an inside shot by Dower, the two 3-pointers and a free throw by Pangos on the technical.

"It has been an interesting year," OSU coach Travis Ford said. "You learn so much through it. As I told our team, hopefully a lot of the things we went through will help these guys individually, help them reflect back on some of the things we went through and how we handled some of it, because I thought we handled some of it really well."

The Cowboys lost seven straight at one point, with the last three games of that streak coinciding with Smart's suspension.

"Some of the things we could control and some of the things were out of our control. But we were a feisty group," Ford said.

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