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SPORTS: Oklahoma State University

Tall Order: OSU Faces Height Disadvantage Against Zags

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma State exceeded a lot of people's expectations by becoming just the second team ever to bounce back from a seven-game losing streak to land a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Now the Cowboys will have to reach even greater heights to make it out of the opening weekend – literally and figuratively speaking.

The Pokes were awarded a No. 9 seed in the West Region and will face eighth-seeded Gonzaga on Friday in San Diego. The winner of that matchup will – in all likelihood – advance to play No. 1 seed Arizona in the next round.

Neither matchup bodes well for Oklahoma State and the reason is one that has haunted OSU all season: height.

Gonzaga finished 28-6 and is coming off another West Coast Conference tournament title. The Zags present a formidable challenge in the size department.

Sam Dower, a forward/center tweener, is the Zags' leading scorer and poses the biggest threat to the Cowboys. At 6-foot-9 and 243-pounds, Dower is a load on the blocks, averaging 15 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and will pose problems for the undersized Pokes, who will likely attempt to counter Dower with Le'Bryan Nash (6-7, 235), whose height and weight is generously listed.

And while Nash is facing a tough task, one could argue Kamari Murphy's is an even taller task (pun intended).

Przemek Karnowski, who comes in at an imposing 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds, isn't just a big body, he's plenty productive, averaging 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

Kamari Murphy – 6-8, 220 – will have a very challenge ahead of him to say the least.

The Pokes' advantage comes in the backcourt, where the Marcus Smart-Markel Brown-Phil Forte trio have an upper hand, albeit a small one, over the Bulldogs trifecta of Kevin Pangos, David Stockton and Gary Bell.

However, Pangos has had success against this OSU backcourt before, scoring 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting in Gonzaga's 69-68 victory against the Cowboys in Stillwater last season.

Smart led the Pokes in scoring that day with 23, while Brown and Forte combined for 31 in the loss.

RELATED: Sooners Face Tough Opening-Round Foe

This is the second-straight year Oklahoma State (21-12) has made the NCAA Tournament and the 26th time overall. OSU is 38-24 all-time in the tourney with 14 Sweet Sixteen appearances to go with 11 Elite Eights, six Final Fours and two NCAA titles.

This is the fourth trip for the Cowboys in Travis Ford's six seasons.

We will break down these matchups much more in the days leading up to Friday's contest.

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