With only one player with NCAA tournament experience (Tony Woods), Oregon held off the charging Cowboys, never relinquishing a double-digit lead in the second half. They maintained the margin doing what they had done all season, attacking the offensive glass and playing tough, aggressive defense. Oregon out- rebounded Oklahoma State 44-32 and shut down Big-12 Player and Freshman of the Year Marcus Smart, who scored just 14 points--many in garbage time--, on 5-for-13 shooting.
Like the Pac-12 tournament, it was freshman guard Damyean Dotson who gained the Ducks the early momentum, scoring eight of the team's first 11. Dotson did most of his early damage from deep, converting three first half three-point shots. Entering the postseason, Dotson made just 30 three point shots, but has made 11 in the last four games. Dotson finished with 17 points.
"I don't know what it is [that's led to the quick starts]. I try to stay aggressive on offense and just shoot open ones," he said.
If Dotson wasn't knocking down jumpers it was his teammates grabbing the misses. The Ducks had 14 offensive rebounds, six from senior Arsalan Kazemi.
"Sometimes my teammates, they tell me I grab their rebounds, but when I jump I don't look who gets the ball," said Kazemi who also had 11 points and 17 total rebounds. "I apologize if I get their rebound, but I just jump to get it."
It would've been difficult to complain about the forward's play, especially in the first half when he reached the double-double threshold on a rebound bucket that beat the first half buzzer. The rebound basket, which came on a Dotson miss, gave the Ducks a 37-26 lead.
The Cowboys never led after a Dotson three gave them 6-5 deficit with 15:39 left in the first half. From there, the Ducks hounded the Cowboys' Smart--guarding him with smaller defenders--allowing him just two field goals in the first half.
"He's a phenomenal player, and watching films just the films..If I was an NBA guy, I'd want him," Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. "Our quickness was important. I told DA [Dominic Artis] and Johnny [Loyd] there's no doubt he's more physical,… but I really believed they were quicker."
Artis' effort was not simply on the defensive end, where he and Loyd drew Smart, the freshman point guard dropped in 13 points, the most since a Jan. 19 win at UCLA, when he scored the same. He scored 11 of his 13 in the second half, including two key three-point plays to squash Cowboy rallies.
"I made some shots that I usually hit, so that got me going," he said. "And then focusing on defense really helped my team."
"I keep telling him it takes longer for a freshman to come back from injury…than it would a junior or senior, because he doesn't have the experience to draw upon." Altman said.
The Ducks picked up the decisive victory despite being outshot by the Cowboys and turning it over four more times.
Oklahoma State's Travis Ford was adamant that the Ducks were better than their seeding would indicate, and knew so before the teams took the court Thursday.
"I knew right away after watching them this was not your typical 12 seed," he said.