Poor defense costs No. 17 Oregon men’s basketball second straight loss

California sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace (3) goes up for the lay-up during the first half. The No. 17 Oregon Ducks play the California Bears at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. on Jan. 9, 2014. (Ryan Kang/Emerald)

California sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace (3) goes up for the lay-up during the first half. The No. 17 Oregon Ducks play the California Bears at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. on Jan. 9, 2014. (Ryan Kang/Emerald)

Posted by Hayden Kim on Thursday, Jan. 9 at 11:39 pm.

There was a lot of uncertainty and shrugged shoulders following the Oregon men’s basketball team’s second straight conference loss of the season against visiting California. For the second consecutive game, the Ducks gave up over 90 points, another poor performance on the defensive end against a California team that ranked 141st in scoring. After boasting a perfect 13-0 start, the Ducks have quickly regressed to a 1-2 record in their last three games.

“A lot of things (went wrong),” head coach Dana Altman said. “Just didn’t seem to have much bounce, gave up a lot of easy baskets right from the start.”

Scoring the ball hasn’t been an issue for the No. 17-ranked Ducks. Consistently ranked in the top five in scoring this season, the Ducks have shown their legitimacy on the offensive end. And up until conference play, it was good enough to give them one of their best starts in school history.

But on the other side of the ball, the Ducks have been consistently inconsistent and, at times, have exhibited a level of play that will not survive in Pac-12 play. The Ducks allowed five different Cal players to score in double figures Thursday night and gave up a career-high 32 to Jordan Matthews in the process. Dana Altman did feel a little bit more confident in his defense after a good week of practice, but it was once again overshadowed by a lack of effort and execution.

“We had a couple very good days and that’s why I felt a little better going into this game,” Altman said. “(But) we’ve got to do some soul searching. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Defensively, we’re not very good. There’s no other way to put it.”

After dropping 11 straight games to California heading into this game, the Ducks had their fair share of opportunities to end the streak. From Johnathan Loyd pressuring Justin Cobbs (California’s leading scorer) all the way up the court to occasionally running down the shot clock, the Ducks showed spurts of good defensive play. Had they kept this up throughout the game, it could have been a much closer contest.

“I’ve got to take my share of the responsibility,” Altman said. “That’s two games in a row where we’ve made a lot of defensive mistakes. If we’re not fundamentally sound, then that’s one person’s fault; it’s coach’s fault for not making them do it.”

The Ducks defense was simply overpowered by solid interior passing and lights out shooting by the Golden Bears. Some of it was California having a good night, but it was more about the Ducks inability to guard both the perimeter and paint. For a team that is looking to make another deep run in the tournament, this is something that will need to be fixed as soon as possible.

In a stacked conferece like the Pac-12, the Ducks have experienced what it’s like to be exposed on the defensive end. Whether it be the transition from non-conference play to the Pac-12 or the slow pace of six new transfers learning to play good defense together, the Ducks have some obvious holes to fill in the next few games that they aren’t necessarily sure how to address at this moment.

“That’s a good question,” Mike Moser said, in regards to how to address the deficiencies on defense at this point in the season. “I’m not sure how to answer that one.”

Luckily for the Ducks, they will be facing a Stanford team this upcoming Sunday that has dropped their first two conference games.

“It’s at an all-time high,” Moser said in reference to the Ducks sense of urgency. “I think this loss makes that Stanford game a lot, lot bigger than it was about 40 minutes ago.”

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Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim