The Cowboys were in a funk from the start in a 68-55 loss to Oregon in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, and never really emerged. And the grades reflect that:
Defensive rebounding: D. At halftime, OSU had 13 defensive rebounds and Oregon had 11 offensive rebounds. Then the Ducks scored off an offensive rebound to early in the second half to take a 41-26 lead. OSU eventually shored up the boards, but it was too late. Oregon had 13 second-chance points at that juncture, and the game was effectively lost. Iranian Arsalan Kazemi had 17 rebounds, six on the offensive end, matching OSU's team total.
Transition defense: D. The official stats showed Oregon with two fast-break points. Don't believe it. The Ducks scored 13 points in the first five seconds of possessions, 18 points in the first six seconds of possessions and 26 points in the first seven seconds of possessions. Some of that was turnover related, but some of it was the Cowboys just not getting back on defense.
Mascot popularity: A. Pistol Pete's popularity goes coast to coast. OSU's mascot was repeatedly solicited to pose for pictures, and not just with Cowboy fans. Montana and Oregon fans sought out Pete. On the other end of the court, Oregon's Fighting Duck enjoyed the same kind of demand.
Foul shooting: D. The Cowboys made just eight of 15 from the line. They came in shooting 75 percent for the season. Worse yet, their misses Thursday came when this still was a game. Marcus Smart missed the front end of a one-and-one with OSU trailing 24-18, then missed two more when it was 26-18. Le'Bryan Nash missed the front end of a one-and-one when OSU trailed 32-24. By the time the Cowboys made four straight midway through the second half, they were out of the game.
Basket protection: B. The Cowboys didn't surrender the rim easily. Phil Jurick had two blocked shots, Michael Cobbins had one and Markel Brown had one that went uncredited. And OSU altered some other shots. But jumping for blocks also left the Cowboys susceptible to Oregon offensive rebounds.
Ball protection: C. The Cowboys were awful early in treasuring possessions. OSU committed turnovers on its first three possessions and had 10 turnovers in the first 11 1/2 minutes of the game, by which time the Cowboys trailed 19-12. OSU had just five turnovers the rest of the game, and Oregon ended up getting loose with the ball itself and committed 18 turnovers total. But the tone had been set. Smart had five turnovers, and Brown and Nash had three each.
Tournament organization: D. The OSU-Oregon was scheduled to tip off at 1:40 p.m. California time. The next game — UNLV-Cal — was scheduled to tip off at 4:27 p.m. In a different session. So when the OSU-Oregon game lasted until 4:05 p.m., there was all of 22 minutes left until the scheduled tipoff. During which HP Pavilion had to be cleared of all fans, then restocked with those holding tickets to Session II. No way, Jose. What a mess. Blame it on the NCAA's give-in to all television demands.
Physicality: B. Travis Ford was critical of OSU's physicality in the first half, but the truth is, the Cowboys were out-executed and outpositioned more than out-toughed. Smart, Nash and Kamari Murphy all made muscle shots in traffic in the first half, when the Cowboys had only 11 field goals total.
Momentum inducements: D. Ford says the three things that create momentum are forcing turnovers, offensive rebounds and 3-point shots. The Cowboys forced some turnovers in the first half, but they were mauled on the boards and made just two 3-pointers, both in the first four minutes of the game. Thus OSU generated little momentum. Its biggest spree in the first half was 4-0. Its biggest spree in the second half was 5-0, started when Oregon led 54-38. The Cowboys trailed by 11 at halftime and never got within single digits thereafter.