Higher-seeded Oklahoma State was little match for Pac-12 champion Oregon on Thursday in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Cowboys appeared to be barely in it, either mentally or physically, in falling to the Ducks 68-55 with hardly a whimper in a West Region game played in San Jose, Calif.
The Cowboys, the fifth seed in the Midwest Region, appeared flat and not all that into the game, as if they had left everything out on the court in last weekend’s semifinal loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Conference Tournament. Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Smart was never really able to get his game going when the Cowboys needed it most, despite finishing with 14 points, five steals and four assists.
“I definitely wish I could have done more for my team,” Smart said afterword. “I didn’t contribute to my team the way I usually do.”
There was some question coming into the game whether Oregon, which finished second in the Pac-12 and had won 26 games this season, was seeded unfairly on the 12 line, given the Ducks overall body of work this season. Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said before the game that Oregon looked nothing like a 12 seed, and as the game got under way, they didn’t play like one, either.
It is true that Oregon played much better than a double-digit seed in defeating the Cowboys, the Big 12’s third best team during the regular season. But the way Ford’s guys played throughout, I’m not sure it would have mattered if they were playing a 13, 14 or 15 seed. You could almost sense it slipping away very early in the contest, as Oregon was able to get their shots and hit them when they needed to. The Ducks gradually lengthened their lead approaching halftime and led by 11 at the break.
Oklahoma State never got the score any closer than 10 points in the second half, as both teams played to a virtual standstill offensively. In the end, Oregon’s 14-rebound advantage, particularly on the offensive glass, was a major difference in thwarting any comeback attempt by the Cowboys.
Oregon now moves on to face St. Louis (27-6), champion of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, on Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Four more Big 12 schools swing into action on Friday in NCAA Tournament action. Kansas State will meet LaSalle and Kansas, the top seed in the South Region is paired with 16-seed Western Kentucky in its opening game of the tournament. Both games will be played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Oklahoma (20-11), a 10 seed, will be in Philadelphia, where the Sooners will meet seven-seed San Diego State in one of the late games on Friday. Meanwhile, Iowa State (22-11), another 10-seed, squares off with Notre Dame in Dayton, Ohio, in a West Region game.