Friday, November 21, 2008

Oklahoma State vs. Gonzaga: A History Lesson

The Gonzaga Bulldogs and Oklahoma State Cowboys have only played two games in the history of the respective universities.  In those two games, their has been about enough intrigue and drama to make you think these squads were rivals dating back a couple decades.

It's easier to write this piece on the history of the GU-OSU match up because the Zags are 2-0 all time between the squads.  Another reason why it is so interesting to look at these two games is because they both featured shining performances by so many Gonzaga legends.  The 2004 match up in Oklahoma City was one of the best and most heart-pounding Gonzaga games I have ever watched.  If you don't remember, this was when Ronny Turiaf dominated the paint for the Zags but the big man from France was struggling with an ankle injury the entire game.  The Cowboys were led by the Graham brothers and John Lucas.  They were a team that was steamrolling through the season and ranked third at the time.  They had all the ingredients for a championship team.  The Zags were the upstart squad; featuring a young Adam Morrison and an inexperienced J.P. Batista who had to play serious minutes because of Turiaf's injury.  Gonzaga jumped out to a nine point lead at halftime and seemed to have the game in hand early in the second half when they ran the lead out to 16 points.   Turiaf, who was not even supposed to be seeing action, played 18 minutes and had 10 points.  This game was about Adam Morrison and J.P. Batista.  Batista, hailing from Brazil, had 18 points and only missed one shot the entire evening.   The Cowboys closed the gap at the end but after an Adam Morrison hit a jumper in the lane, the Cowboys were down three.  A last second desperation heave by John Lucas fell short and Gonzaga gave Oklahoma State its first loss on the year.  

There is not much you can say about the 2005 game...unless you let Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson tell you about it...

The Battle in Seattle between the two teams in 2005 had a different storyline.  Adam Morrison was the leading scorer in the nation and this was a game the Zags were supposed to win.  Led by Mario Boggan, the Cowboys were frustrating Gonzaga, especially Morrison.  He shot a below average 6-14 from the field and never seemed to hit a rhythm but in a game like this, you knew Morrison would have the ball in his hands in the final seconds.  As a Gonzaga fan, it's hard to admit some things but in this game the Zags got extremely lucky.  Nobody played well for Mark Few that day and the game probably should have been a loss for the Bulldogs.  Gonzaga's other star player, J.P. Batista was off as well, shooting 5-12 from the field but still  finishing with 17 points.  The Adam Morrison bank shot will go down as one of the greatest shots in Gonzaga history and it is well deserved.  

So what can these games tell us about what it going to happen when these two teams face off on November 27th?  Expect the unexpected.  Yes, the Sutton family has moved on from Oklahoma State but the Cowboys always play hard and you can count on them to bring it again against the touted Gonzaga Bulldogs.  If anything, new coach Travis Ford will re-instill that toughness to this team.  Judging by the past, you can't expect a blowout.

It may be a new cast of characters but I expect the plot to be very similar to the games in 2004 and 2005.  I think the Zags will win but don't sleep on the Cowboys.  You can bet that the 2005 game still sits fresh in the mind of Oklahoma State guard Bryon Eaton and Gonzga guard Jeremy Pargo.  Both players started the 2005 game and will be leading their teams in battle come November 27.

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