New Year's Eve could prove to be a long day for the Oklahoma State Cowboys mens basketball team as they have to travel to the Great Northwest to take on a perennial NCAA Tournament team in the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
The Cowboys enter with a gaudy 11-1 record so far on the year and they are coming off back to back wins over BCS opponents Alabama and Stanford. Needless to say the game against Gonzaga on the road will be their toughest test to date and should give a early glimpse into how good the Cowboys are.
Oklahoma State will once again look to their veteran leaders to help lead them as Keiton Page came up big in the game against Stanford with 23 points. Marshall Moses has had some big games scoring and rebounding and will need another big effort going against Robert Sacre of Gonzaga. A key player for Oklahoma State in this game, as well as the rest of the year, will be freshman guard Markel Brown. With the loss of Fred Gulley for the season there are available minutes to be had and it would be big Travis Ford and the Cowboys if Brown could earn that playing time. Brown was big time recruit coming out of the state of Louisiana where he averaged 32 points a game in high school, so far on the season he is only averaging 11 minutes a game and 3 points per game.
Gonzaga enters the game riding a four game winning streak which started oddly enough after a three game losing streak. Included in that four game streak were wins over always tough Xavier and at the time #9 Baylor.
Steven Gray for the Bulldogs came back from injury in their last game against Lafayette to play 17 minutes. While he did not attempt a shot in the game his presence should be a good sign that he will be able to contribute against OSU. Another bad sign for the Cowboys is that Elias Harris has returned to form as of late scoring in double figures in 4 of the last 5 games for Gonzaga. Robert Sacre is not to be forgotten either as the 7 footer is averaging 12.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.
This contest is the first game in a home and home agreement between Gonzaga and Oklahoma State. The Bulldogs will travel to Stillwater in the 2012-2013 season, which will be the Bulldogs first ever appearance in Gallagher-Iba arena.
So far in two games against the Big 12 this year, Gonzaga is 1-1 with a win over Baylor and a loss to Kansas State in the Sprint Center early in the season.
This game comes down to how well the Cowboys can handle the travel and keep their heads in the game with it being a New Years Eve contest. Many Big 12 fans can remember Kansas State playing a similar game against Xavier a few seasons back in which the Wildcats got demolished.
Gonzaga is the favored team being at home and riding a hot streak and they probably should be the favorite. Oklahoma State so far this year has shown an ability to just win basketball games no matter how pretty it looks. While this game should be relatively close, look for Gonzaga to be too much for the Cowboys and pull away in the second half.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 with a tip time of 9:00 P.M Central.