SAN DIEGO — Gonzaga grabbed control early and never really relinquished it Friday, dispatching Oklahoma State, 85-77, in a foul-filled, NCAA tournament second-round matchup at Viejas Arena.
With the Zags never trailing, the Cowboys — widely seen as the No. 9 seed that might trouble top-seeded Arizona in the next round — were forced to foul, and they did. There were an astonishing 37 free throws shot by the teams from the final TV timeout at the 3:52 mark on.
There were 61 fouls called, and five players fouled out. According to the TV broadcast, the 61 fouls were the most in a non-overtime tournament game since the 1975 Final Four.
Gonzaga (29-6) grabbed a 12-point lead early in the second half, but Oklahoma State made a run, drawing within 53-30 and prompting a timeout from Gonzaga’s Mark Few.
The Zags ran a screen for Gary Bell Jr. at the top of the key and he drained it, and on the next Oke State possession, Kevin Pangos stole the ball and scored, restoring an eight-point lead.
From there, Gonzaga led comfortably for the most part, despite missing six straight free throws in a span of 24 seconds inside the three-minute mark.
In a game of early runs, the Zags had control at halftime, 43-34, thanks to a 7-0 push before intermission.
It was a foul-marred first half, as both coaches had to massage their rosters to limit the damage. Each team had four players with two at halftime, and the Zags had three backcourt players with two as they tried to contain the quick Cowboys on the perimeter.
Most prominent was foul trouble to Bell, who had 10 points by the first TV timeout — but also two fouls. He was taken out at the 14:34 mark, and reinserted a couple of times and escaped with a pair of fouls.
Bell’s consecutive treys staked the Zags to a quick 6-0 lead in the first minute, and it grew to 9-0 before Oke State answered. Gonzaga led 17-6 and hit its first seven shots as its offense was shredding the Cowboy defense.
Just as quickly, OSU mounted a 10-0 run, ignited by Marcus Smart’s four-point play on Bell’s second foul. But the Zags, threatened several times in the half, kept the Cowboys at arm’s length through all the fouls, which drew boos from some in the crowd.
It was 36-34, Zags, when an exchange of turnovers in Gonzaga frontcourt gave Drew Barham a chance for a three from the left wing. OSU missed, and Pangos drained a trey from on top, his first three after a trio of misses.
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford then incurred a technical foul with 11 seconds left, and Pangos hit one of two free throws to make it a nine-point game at the break.