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November 23, 2012
Gonzaga is seeking its second straight 5-0 start while Oklahoma is looking to begin 4-0 for the second consecutive season.
One of these unbeaten teams will reach that respective goal Friday night when the No. 17 Bulldogs and Sooners meet in the semifinals of the Old Spice Classic.
These teams had vastly different starts in their quarterfinal victories Thursday.
Gonzaga missed nine of its first 10 shots and trailed by as many as six points in the first half before rallying for a 57-49 victory over Clemson. The Bulldogs heated up and shot 70.0 percent (14 of 20) after the break.
"It was a very good win for us,'' coach Mark Few said. "We haven't been in a grinder yet, and we need to experience that. We need to experience being successful in an environment like that."
Oklahoma scored the first 15 points and led by as many as 20 in its 68-61 victory over Texas-El Paso. The Sooners have led by double digits at halftime in all three games.
"It was a great start," coach Lon Kruger said. "You'd like to start all ballgames like that, not only on the scoreboard, but the energy was good and the activity defensively was very good, and there were very few turnovers on the offense at the other end."
Kruger may have a tough time preparing for Gonzaga on short notice since Kelly Olynyk is back for the Bulldogs. The 7-foot Olynyk had 13 points in 24 foul-plagued minutes Thursday in his season debut after being out due to a violation of the student code of conduct.
"I was just out there trying to play,'' Olynyk said. "Trying to play my game. It was tough at first for me, just getting back into the swing of things.''
Gonzaga doesn't seem to be lacking in quality big men other than Olynyk. The 6-9 Sam Dower, averaging 11.5 points per game, had started the first three games in Olynyk's place while Polish 7-1 freshman Przemek Karnowski averaged a team-high 16.0 points before he was held scoreless Thursday.
Oklahoma starts a pair of 6-9 forwards and is hoping that one of them, Romero Osby, can produce a third straight double-double. Osby had 16 points and 10 boards against the Miners.
"We need him to do that," senior guard Steven Pledger said. "We need him to be strong, and he had a double-double tonight, which is great."
Osby managed one double-double in eight games against ranked opponents last season, and he's eager to fare better Friday.
"I think Gonzaga is a great team," Osby said. "Their coach is a great coach, they always have a great program and it's an honor to get a chance to play against such a historic program."
These teams split their only meetings in 2007 and 2009. The winner will face West Virginia or Davidson in Sunday's championship.