Eugene, OR -The #17-ranked Oregon Ducks faced their nemesis tonight as the California Golden Bears (11-4, 2-0) came to town. Cal has had the Ducks number, defeating them eleven straight times dating back to February, 2008. They extended their streak to twelve, led by a career-high 32 points from freshman Jordan Matthews, and upset the Ducks 96-83. Joseph Young led Oregon with 29 points, shooting 16-of-17 from the foul line.
Cal came into the game after defeating rival Stanford 59-52 helped by a strong finishing performance from their point guard Justin Cobbs. Oregon (13-2, 1-2) comes off a 1-1 road trip in which they defeated Utah in OT and lost to a strong Colorado squad. Two key Cal players, 6’6″ frosh Jabari Bird (11.3 ppg, ankle) and 6’6″ Ricky Kreklow (6.4 ppg, broken hand) were both out with injuries.
6’3″ freshman Matthews, averaging only 7.4 ppg, came out strong for Cal, scoring 14 of their first 23 points as the Bears took a 23-18 lead. Matthews had a 22-point game earlier in the year against UCSB and has been getting more time recently getting minutes that previously went to Bird and Kreklow. However, in the Stanford game he scored only two points on 1-of-7 shooting. Matthews ended the half with 20 points as Cal took a 46-42 lead into the locker room. The Bears had a small lead through most of the half. Joseph Young led the Ducks in the first half with 13 points on perfect shooting (3-3 FG, 1-1 3PT, 6-6 FT).
Oregon gave a much better effort on the boards and on the defensive end in the first part of the second half. Johnathan Loyd pressed Cobbs and came up with a few steals but Cal still held a 75-72 lead with 5:47 left after both Cal bigs, Richard Solomon and David Kravish drew their fourth fouls. Young came up with a nice offensive board and basket to draw Oregon to two, at 76-74. Matthews came right back with a three-pointer to stretch the lead to five. The Bears then extended the lead helped by stellar late play once again by Cobbs. Cobbs had seven points and three assists in the final five minutes, ending the game with 20 points and 11 assists. Cal out-rebounded Oregon 36-30. Both teams shot an identical 26-of-29 from the foul line. The main difference is the game was that Cal made their open looks, shooting 52.5 percent compared to 40.6 percent for the Ducks.
Oregon can certainly score with a multitude of weapons especially from three-point land. Young (44.4 percent) and Jason Calliste (58.3 percent) lead the pack but Mike Moser (36.5 percent), Loyd (37 percent) and Damyean Dotson (35.1 percent) are all shooting well. The Ducks shoot 41.4 percent (12th in the nation) on three-pointers as a team and were tied for the national lead in scoring (89.4 ppg). Where Oregon has had an issue is on the defensive end and in rebounding.
While their defensive statistics appear decent, when you look at their games against stronger competition you start to see a pattern. Mississippi scored 105 points against them in an OT game, BYU, 96, and in their previous game Colorado scored 100. As Coach Altman said “Defensively we are not very good…that was a total team breakdown…we have a long ways to go.”
While Oregon is not big (the tallest starters are Moser and Richard Amardi, both 6’8″), most of rebounding and defense is effort. Iowa State starts three 6’6″-6’7″ players up front and consistently out-rebounds their opponents. Rhode Island just out-rebounded a much bigger and stronger LSU team 46-32 in a road win. If the Ducks start to show as much effort on defense and on the boards as they show on the offensive end, they could be one of the better teams come March. If not their season will end prematurely.