SAN JOSE, Calif. — Dominic Artis anticipated Marcus Smart’s pass and took the interception the other way for a layup early to set the tone for Oregon.
Despite the seedings and pregame hype surrounding Oklahoma State’s star, the Ducks had the better team and the better freshman point guard Thursday.
Artis, a former Findlay Prep star, had 13 points and four steals and helped slow Smart, while fellow freshman Damyean Dotson led the way with 17 points to help 12th-seeded Oregon extend a run that began in the Pac-12 tournament by beating the fifth-seeded Cowboys 68-55 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“We wanted to be aggressive on the boards, we wanted to be aggressive defensively, and we wanted to be aggressive offensively,” Ducks coach Dana Altman said. “I thought our guys did a great job of that. DA got it started off with a steal and layup early. I’m really happy for these two freshman guards. They’re the future of our program, and to get experience like that, it was really important.”
Arsalan Kazemi added 11 points and 17 rebounds to help Oregon (27-8) to a 44-32 edge on the boards in the Ducks’ first tournament win in six years.
The Ducks advanced to play fourth-seeded Saint Louis (27-6) on Saturday for a spot in the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis next week. The Billikens beat New Mexico State, 64-44.
The selection committee raised eyebrows when Oregon was given a 12 seed despite tying for second place in the Pac-12 in the regular season, winning the conference tournament and going 21-4 with Artis in the lineup.
“I never felt like we needed to make a statement,” forward E.J. Singler said. “We knew we had a good team. It was about getting the win and feeling good about ourselves.”
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said before the game that the Ducks looked nothing like a 12 seed, and that was proven with the way they shut down Smart and hit their outside shots. Oregon’s eight 3-pointers were their most since having nine in December against Houston Baptist.
“We ran into a very hot team, a very hot team,” Ford said. “I’ve watched a lot of games on these guys, and how they’ve played the last three games compared to how they were playing two or three weeks ago, this was a hot basketball team. I was impressed with Oregon, really impressed, and they came in here playing extremely well.”
Smart came into the game with the hype of a top NBA prospect but was held to 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting in a disappointing finish to a stellar season for the Cowboys (24-9).
“I definitely wish I could have done more for my team,” Smart said. “I didn’t contribute to my team the way that I usually do. And it hurt us a little bit.”
Smart hurt his right hand in the second half and was to have tests to determine the extent of the injury. His future also is in question, and Ford said he would talk with his star player soon about whether to enter the NBA Draft.
Artis had his best performance since missing nine games with a foot injury in the conference season.
His return late in the season helped pave the way to the Pac-12 tournament title for Oregon and has the Ducks playing their best at the most important time.
The 6-foot-4-inch Smart picked a bad time for one of his worst performances. He turned the ball over five times, missed four of eight free throws and didn’t exploit his decided size advantage against the 6-1 Artis and 5-8 Bishop Gorman product Johnathan Loyd on the offensive end.
Loyd, the Pac-12 tournament Most Valuable Player, finished with five points and a team-high three assists.
Smart didn’t get much help outside of 16 points from guard Markel Brown.
The Ducks had a decided crowd advantage, with even former UCLA star Bill Walton decked out in a tie-dyed Oregon outfit. Oregon fans had plenty to cheer about in the first half after a sloppy start to the game that featured 10 turnovers in the opening nine minutes.
Artis picked Smart twice to lead to fast-break baskets for the Ducks. Kazemi’s slam on a putback gave Oregon a 19-12 lead as the Cowboys went nearly six minutes without scoring.
Carlos Emory’s 3-pointer from the corner made it a double-digit game with about a minute left in the first half, and Kazemi beat the buzzer with a reverse layup to put Oregon up 37-26 at intermission.