Louisville guard Peyton Siva (3) drives to the basket as North Carolina A&T forward DaMetrius Upchurch (4) defends during the second half in the Cardinals' win Thursday. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)
Lexington, Ky. — Pay attention, No. 1s. This is how it's done.
Russ Smith scored 23 points and set a Louisville NCAA tournament record with a career-high eight steals, and Peyton Siva had eight assists as the Cardinals demolished North Carolina A&T 79-48 on Thursday night. Louisville finished with 20 steals, breaking the previous tournament mark of 19.
It was the 11th straight win for the Cardinals (30-5), and only their sixth victory ever at Rupp Arena. Of course, that's because Louisville is usually facing Kentucky here, but the defending national champions are spectators these days after being bounced out of the first round of the NIT this week. Rick Pitino and his Big East champions will play the winner of Colorado State-Missouri on Saturday.
No 16th seed has ever beaten a No. 1 and, unlike that Southern-Gonzaga squeaker that ended shortly before the Aggies and Cardinals tipped off, this one was never even a contest.
Oh, the Cardinals let A&T (20-17) hang around for a few minutes, giving the small handful of Aggies fans enough time to take photos of the scoreboard while the margin was still respectable. (OK, it was 6-4. Considering the Aggies had never even won an NCAA tournament game until Tuesday night, it was as good as a lead.)
Once Louisville stepped on the gas, however, this one was done.
The Cardinals silenced whatever questions there might have been about them deserving the No. 1 overall seed with a performance as impressive as it was unrelenting. Louisville shot better than 57 percent, and the only players who didn't score were the benchwarmers who came in at the end of the game. The Cardinals scored on oh, so sweet finger rolls and rim-rattling dunks. They scored on layups and knocked down short jumpers. They hit from 3-point range and converted three-point plays.
And where to even begin with those guards.
Siva and Smith are arguably the best tandem in the country and, if they continue playing like this, Louisville will have a good shot at improving on last year's trip to the Final Four.
With the game already out of hand, Siva and Smith combined for a 13-0 run that put Louisville up 67-37. Smith scored the first two baskets, Siva answered with two of his own and then Smith drilled a 3 from the corner. They finished it off with Siva scooping up a loose ball at halfcourt and dishing to Smith.
Oregon 68, Oklahoma State 55
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 the all the pregame hype surrounding Oklahoma State's star, the Ducks had the better team and the better freshman point guard Thursday night.
Artis had 13 points, four steals and helped slow down 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 in the second round of the NCAAs.
"We wanted to be aggressive on the boards, we wanted to be aggressive defensively and we wanted to be aggressive offensively," 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 give the Ducks (27-8) their first tournament win in six years.
Oregon advanced to play fourth-seeded St 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 some 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 true in their tournament opener 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 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 feel like I let my team down. 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 scheduled to have tests to determine the extent of the injury. His future is also in question and Ford said he would talk with his star player soon about whether to enter the NBA draft.
It was the Ducks' freshmen backcourt that shined on this night with Dotson hitting three 3-pointers in the first half to help build the lead and Artis shining on both ends.
Artis frustrated Smart and also hit a 3-pointer that gave the Ducks a 54-38 lead midway through the second half in his best performance since missing nine games with a foot injury during the conference season.
"I made some shots that I usually hit, so that got me going," Artis said. "And then focusing on defense really helped the team."
His return late in the year helped pave the way to the Pac-12 tournament title for Oregon and has the Ducks playing their best at the most important time of year.
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 was unable to exploit his decided size advantage against Artis and Johnathan Loyd on the offensive end.
He didn't get much help either outside of 16 points from Markel Brown.
"It's frustrating," said Le'Bryan Nash, who was held to 10 points. "Winning 24 games, that's still a remarkable season but being a fifth seed, it hurts a lot. I want to cry right now but I can't. I'm really hurt right now."
The Ducks had a decided crowd advantage for the game played on the West Coast with even former UCLA star Bill Walton decked out in a tie-dyed Oregon outfit.
There was plenty to cheer about in the first half for the Oregon fans after a sloppy start to the game that featured 10 turnovers in the opening 9 minutes.
Artis picked Smart twice to lead to fastbreak baskets for the Ducks. Kazemi's slam on a putback gave Oregon a 19-12 lead as the Cowboys went nearly 6 minutes without scoring.
Carlos Emory's 3-pointer from the corner made it a double-digit game with just over a minute left and Kazemi beat the buzzer with a reverse off an airball by Dotson to give Oregon a 37-26 lead at the half.
Saint Louis 64, New Mexico State 44
In San Jose, California, Saint Louis had no problem maneuvering around 7-foot-5 freshman Sim Bhullar and New Mexico State.
Dwayne Evans scored 24 points, Cody Ellis added 12 points and the fourth-seeded Billikens overwhelmed the Aggies in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Playing with a heavy heart since Rick Majerus died in December, Saint Louis reached another mark in March for its late coach. The Billikens (28-6) eclipsed the 1988-89 team's school record of 27 victories.
Evans shot 11 of 16 from the floor and finished a point shy of his career best to propel Saint Louis past Bhullar. The Billikens held Bhullar to four points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
Bandja Sy had 17 points and nine rebounds for the 13th-seeded Aggies (24-11), who shot a miserable 28 percent. Saint Louis shot 46 percent and forced 16 turnovers.
The big man bothered the Billikens at first.
The lumbering center stayed around the rim while his other four teammates chased five players around the perimeter. The unconventional defensed allowed Bhullar to save energy and protect the paint.
Once Saint Louis solved the big man, it had no trouble on either end of the floor.
The Billikens pushed the pace and often left Bhullar in the backcourt, especially when New Mexico State committed seven turnovers in the first nine minutes. Evans pulled up for several uncontested jumpers just inside the free throw line, scoring 16 points during a 29-14 run to open the game.
Bhullar didn't make his first shot until 3:49 left in the first half when he converted a short hook, and he didn't register his first block until swatting Evans' shot 2:37 into the second half.
After New Mexico State showed a brief burst of offense to slice Saint Louis' lead to nine, the Billikens again leaned on Evans to pull away. He converted a pair of difficult reverse layups, outsmarting Bhullar around the rim to lift Saint Louis ahead 37-23.
The Aggies made their best run with Bhullar on the bench. Sy slammed an alley-hoop from Ross-Miller, and Evans added a 3-pointer to a cap an 8-0 run to come within six.
The highlights for the Aggies ended there.
Evans and Ellis — who wore a blue Mohawk-style strip across his hair — each made a 3-pointer during a 12-2 spurt for Saint Louis that put the game away. The Billikens led 49-34 with 9:30 remaining, and honored Majerus the best way they know: staying steady down the stretch to advance in the NCAA tournament.
Players wore a patch on their jerseys — a ribbon with the word "Coach" — as they have since Majerus died of heart failure in December. He left the team before the season because of health concerns, and Jim Crews has taken over and led the Billikens to the A-10 regular season and conference crowns.
The Billikens beat Memphis last year before losing in the round of 32 to Michigan State. They made their first opponent looked like a walkover, although that's hardly been the case the past two months.
The Aggies closed out year winning 18 of 20 games, including the Western Athletic Conference tournament title for the second straight season. New Mexico State also was a No. 13 seed last season, losing 79-66 in the first round to Indiana.
The Aggies haven't won a tournament game since beating Nebraska in the opening round in 1993.
Colorado State 84, Missouri 72
In Lexington, Kentucky, Dorian Green scored 17 of his 26 points in the first half and eighth-seeded Colorado State used good shooting and great rebounding to run away from No. 9 Missouri in the NCAA tournament.
Green, who went scoreless with five turnovers in last year's second-round upset to Murray State, did much better this time as the Rams shot nearly 58 percent in the first half.
Minnesota transfer and Rams big man Colton Iverson outrebounded Missouri by himself through 27 minutes and finished with 13 boards.
First-year Rams coach Larry Eustachy earned the victory with his fourth tournament team, but the road gets tougher as they advance to face top-seeded Louisville in Saturday's third-round Midwest Regional game at Rupp Arena.
Phil Pressey's 20 points led the Tigers (23-11).
Greg Smith and Jon Octeus each added 12 points while Wes Eikmeier added 11 for Colorado State (26-8), which was rarely threatened by Missouri.
The lopsided outcome was surprising considering the teams' similarities that made this an intriguing matchup.
Besides balanced offenses with at least four starters averaging in double figures, Colorado State and Missouri also have thrived on the glass. The Rams entered the game with a rebound margin of 12.1 per game, tops in the nation, with the Tigers third at 9.6.
Iverson averaged 14.7 points per game to key Colorado State's return to the tournament along with Eustachy, who led Southern Mississippi here last year. The 6-foot-10 senior has been helped by Eikmeier (12.7 points) and Green (12.8 points) and Smith (11.1).
Missouri meanwhile featured one of the field's most balanced offenses, with Laurence Bowers (14.4 points) leading five starters averaging at least 11 points per game. Pressey has been one of the Tigers' most interesting stories, a talented guard who has tended to make mistakes in key moments.
That made for an entertaining first half that Colorado State led 47-38 by setting the offensive pace before falling into an end-to-end game more to Missouri's liking.
The Rams shot 15 of 26 (58 percent) in the first half and seemed primed to run away from the Tigers. Green was 3 for 3 from beyond the arc.
Missouri was 15 of 30 in the first 20 minutes with four 3-pointers.
Missouri closed to 49-45 early in the second half, but the Rams responded with a 17-4 surge for their biggest lead at 66-49 lead.