STILLWATER, Okla. — The way Gary Bell Jr. looked after coming out of Gonzaga’s game with a right knee injury, coach Mark Few wasn’t sure whether he’d made the right call by putting him back in.
It turned out Bell was in the right place at exactly the right time.
Bell hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 35.7 seconds left to put the 10th-ranked Bulldogs ahead, Kevin Pangos made two clinching free throws down the stretch and Gonzaga beat No. 22 Oklahoma State 69-68 Monday night night to spoil one of the Cowboys’ most anticipated nonconference games at Gallagher-Iba Arena in decades.
“Just adrenaline helped me a lot,” said Bell, who came out of the game in the first 3 minutes of the second half and was flexing his knee on the bench to try to get ready to return.
“Especially in those tight games, with the adrenaline pouring, you can play through a lot.”
Pangos finished with 23 points and Kelly Olynyk scored all 21 of his points in the second half for the Bulldogs (13-1), who completed a perfect five-game sweep of Big 12 competition — having already blown out West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State before beating Baylor on Friday night.
Marcus Smart led Oklahoma State (10-2) with 23 points but missed two free throws with 8.7 seconds left with the Cowboys trailing by two. Elias Harris grabbed the rebound on Smart’s second miss, and Pangos was fouled in the backcourt before stepping to the line to drill both free throws.
Phil Forte then connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Oklahoma State. Markel Brown contributed 16 points and Forte scored 15 for the Cowboys.
“We can play with those high-caliber teams,” Smart said. “Gonzaga’s a great team. They’ve beat a couple great teams. For us to come out there and keep it that close, I felt like that just proved a lot to ourselves and to a lot of people that Oklahoma State has a chance.
“Yeah, it’s not the outcome that we wanted, but we’re going to take this as a learning lesson and improve on it.”
It stacked up as one of the most anticipated home, nonconference games in Oklahoma State’s history. Only four other top 10 teams had played at Gallagher-Iba Arena outside of conference play, and Gonzaga was the first ranked team outside of the Big Eight or Big 12 to visit Stillwater since Memphis in 1989. Louisville was the last top 10 team to play in the building outside of conference play, in 1980.
Booster T. Boone Pickens ensured it would be a capacity crowd by buying up nearly 4,000 tickets that remained unsold and providing for them to be handed out for free. The Zags still found a way to send the 13,611 fans home unhappy.
Olynyk, the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer, fought foul trouble in the first half but was able to play through it in the second half. The 7-footer had a pair of buckets off of offensive rebounds to put the Zags back on top, before Smart answered with a putback of his own for a 65-64 OSU advantage.
After an Oklahoma State timeout, Mike Hart set a screen to free up Bell’s 3-pointer from the left wing that gave Gonzaga a 67-65 lead with 35.7 seconds left.
“I was wide open. When I had my feet set, it was automatic,” Bell said.
Olynyk fouled out while keeping Smart from getting an easy layup for the tie — and it proved to be well worth it as the Bulldogs moved to 5-0 against Oklahoma State in the past eight seasons.
Even after missing the first free throw, Smart said he was trying to make the second to keep it a one-possession game after a foul.
“That did not cost us the game, by no stretch of the imagination,” coach Travis Ford said. “He made a lot of plays just to get us to that point. That’s one play out of a game.
“When you’re a player of that caliber, when you’re an All-American, you’re going to find yourself in that position. Sometimes it’s going to go your way, sometimes it’s not.”
Pangos had a transition layup and a 3-pointer in an early 10-0 burst by Gonzaga, and the Bulldogs pushed their lead out to 19-8 before Olynyk came out with two fouls before the midway point of the half. Oklahoma State charged back to take a 31-29 lead before Pangos hit three free throws to send the Zags into halftime up by one.
Few put Olynyk back in after he’d picked up a third foul and switched to a zone to protect him on defense. Olynyk provided a spark, scoring seven points during a 14-5 surge. His putback of a miss by Harris gave Gonzaga a 54-48 lead midway through the second half.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Olynyk said. “We’re playing well as a team. We’re confident in ourselves, we’re confident in our teammates, we’re confident in our abilities and I think what we’re most confident about is we still have a lot of room to grow.
“We’re definitely not at our peak right now.”