Much the way it did against the Washington Huskies at home last Thursday, the Oregon men’s basketball team will be seeking revenge for another of its early season Pac-12 losses in a matchup with the California Golden Bears tonight in Berkeley.
The Bears (20-6, 10-3) have defeated the Ducks (18-7, 9-4) in eight straight games, the last decision coming in Eugene, 77-60, back on Jan. 8. The 17-point margin of defeat marks the Ducks’ most lopsided loss in conference play this season.
Chalk it up to poor defense down the stretch — Oregon fell victim to a 23-5 run midway through the second half — or the lack of execution offensively that allowed the Bears to score 12 points off Oregon’s 14 turnovers.
“I think the Cal game was one of our worst games of the year,” junior forward E.J. Singler said. “We just played terrible. This is definitely a game where we need to go down there and put on a better performance. We’re excited to do it. It’s a big weekend for us.”
Although the stat sheet wasn’t quite as bad as the Ducks acknowledged in practice this week, the play of Cal’s Allen Crabbe made for a forgettable night on Oregon’s end. The 6-foot-6 sophomore guard torched the Ducks for 26 points and 12 rebounds, both game-highs, after making all six of Cal’s three-pointers in 37 minutes of action.
Crabbe’s 15.9 points per game ranks fourth in the Pac-12 — just ahead of Oregon’s Devoe Joseph at 15.7 — and his 66 made three-pointers leads the conference by nine. However, it was the timing of Crabbe’s hot streak that was most detrimental against the Ducks. During the pivotal second-half run, Crabbe scored 11 points on three makes from beyond the arc to put the game on ice with just less than nine minutes remaining.
“We just didn’t get stops down the line,” Oregon senior forward Jeremy Jacob said. “When he was hitting those threes, we would come back and hit a two, but we couldn’t answer back his performance. He had a great night that night.”
Crabbe’s performance certainly stood out, but he isn’t the only one the Ducks are keen on stopping tonight. The trio of Crabbe, redshirt sophomore Justin Cobbs and senior Jorge Gutierrez has given Pac-12 coaches fits throughout the season. Against Oregon, they shot a combined 23 for 43 (50 percent) for 59 points, and also grabbed 19 boards, dished out 11 assists and swiped four steals.
If anything, Oregon’s performance against Washington last week should provide the Ducks with a bit of added confidence against Cal. The Huskies’ star-studded trio of Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten and Abdul Gaddy was held to just 24 points on 9-for-27 shooting, while committing nine of Washington’s 13 turnovers.
Oregon’s interior defense is much improved as well compared to the last time they saw the Golden Bears. They surrendered 40 points in the paint that night, despite holding the size advantage over forwards Harper Kamp and David Kravish.
“They’re a good offensive team,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We can’t give them easy baskets. We can’t let them go to their strengths. It’ll be a challenge. We’re going to have to be really focused and we’re going to have to play very well.”
The Ducks also have gained some much needed experience on the road and seem to have jelled from a team chemistry standpoint as well. Sitting just a game behind Cal and Washington in the conference standings has only added fuel to Oregon’s competitive fire.
“The fact of the matter is we didn’t play good defense against them,” sophomore guard Johnathan Loyd reiterated. “They got to do what they wanted to do. So we have to try to get them out of what they want to do and control the tempo.”
It all begins with the veteran backcourts, and at this point it’s tough to tell who has the edge in that category.