The locker room scene in the aftermath of OSU's 68-55 loss to Oregon was rough.
Sagging heads and silence ruled, following an NCAA Tournament game in which the Cowboys were barely a factor.
Still, OSU coach Travis Ford said he tried to remind his team of the positives of the season.
A 24-win season. A third-place finish in the Big 12, one game behind co-champions Kansas and Kansas State. A return to March Madness.
“I told them I was proud of them,” Ford said. “We've had an outstanding season, with a lot of outstanding moments. Between the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, winning with a very young team right out of the gate against some very veteran teams; winning some good home games; going to Kansas (and winning). You can go down the line …
“It was an outstanding season. A disappointing end, but as a season, and the season means whole, we did a lot for a young basketball team. Very proud of these guys.”
Brian Williams, who missed a significant chunk of the season, said full reflection on the season would have to wait.
“I'm more focused on this game,” said a dejected Williams. “I'll probably reflect on how we had a great season later. It was up and down for me, because of injury.
“Overall, it was a good season. We had a lot of guys step up and make a big impact, make big plays. Everybody contributed this year.”
COWBOYS STUMBLED LATE
More than Thursday's disappointing effort, OSU seemed to go into a nose dive at halftime of the Baylor win in the Big 12 Tournament.
The Cowboys played one of their best halves of the season, racing to a 42-24 lead at the half against the Bears. But they found themselves clinging to victory in the end, holding on 74-72 in a rugged finish that carried over to a loss to Kansas State a day later, and then against Oregon.
“You couldn't find a hotter team than we were in February,” Ford said, alluding to a 7-1 record in that month. “But starting with the second half against Baylor, we haven't played very well.”
OREGON SEIZED MOMENTUM
As the Cowboys looked for ways to get back into their game with Oregon, the Ducks kept sending messages that they wouldn't allow it.
And one Duck made it the clearest: forward Arsalan Kazemi, who grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds.
“Sometimes my teammates, they tell me I grab their rebounds,” said Kazemi, a product of Iran. “But when I jump I don't look who gets the ball. I jump to get the ball.
“I apologize if I get their rebound, but I just jump to get it. That's how it works.”
It didn't work at all for the Cowboys, who were well aware of Oregon's aggressiveness on the boards.
“They dominated the boards,” said OSU guard Phil Forte. “Even if we did get a stop, they were getting rebounds on us. And that's deflating when you make them miss and they're there to clean it up and put it back in.”
Said Le'Bryan Nash: “We knew it was one of their strengths. We put it on our board with the scouting report. And they still got to their strength. They were physical, more physical than us. Whoever is the most physical team is going to win the game.”
How much was OSU hurt by turnovers and lack of rebounding?
With 15 1/2 minutes left in the game, OSU was shooting 50 percent from the field, Oregon was shooting 40 percent from the field, yet the Ducks led 46-33.
“Seven minutes or so to go in the game, they had 17 more shots than we did,” Ford said. “And that kind of sums the game up.”
DUCKS WIN 3-POINT BATTLE
OSU made five of 17 3-point shots against Oregon, which isn't awful — 29.4 percent; the Cowboys shot just 31.6 percent for the season coming into the tournament.
But Nash made both of his 3-point shots. Markel Brown and Forte combined to go just 3-of-12. Forte's lone make came with 2:20 left in the game.
Meanwhile, Oregon made five of 12 3-pointers in the first half to help create its 11-point halftime lead.
HAIL TO THE DUCKS
OSU players pulled no punches in their praise of Oregon.
“Oregon made all the hustle plays,” said OSU forward Michael Cobbins. “I think we got caught a little lackadaisical out there, a little passive, and took for granted just hoping they would miss and we would go get the rebound. But they beat us to those.”
Said Nash: “When you just want the game and want to win, you want to do everything you can to help the team win. That's what Oregon did. Every Oregon player played their role, played their game.”