By Morris Phillips
If you used defense as a barometer for Thursday’s Cal-Oregon game, only one description would apply: Oregon just didn’t have it, and even if they did, it may not have stopped the Cal Bears.
Cal enjoyed its best offensive evening of the season, getting a career-best 32 points from Jordan Mathews and shooting 52 percent in a 96-83 win over the No. 17 Ducks. The Bears finally have a NCAA-resume building win, but more importantly, they improved to 2-0 in conference with two, impressive road wins to start the campaign.
The Bears placed all five starters in double figures, fended off foul trouble late and ran away from Oregon in the final five minutes to create a comfortable margin from what had been a tight game over the first 30 minutes. California led 76-74 with 5:15 remaining, but got a big three from Mathews on the next offensive trip and finished the game on a 20-9 run to pull away. Mathews and Justin Cobbs each had seven points in the run.
For the Bears, the win was proof that the depth-challenged team is capable of big accomplishments even if the bench contributions are few, but significant. Cal got just one of their 32 baskets from a bench player. Christian Behrens’ powerful tip-in of Cobbs’ missed jumper that capped an 8-0 run that put Cal up 67-60 with 10:15 remaining. Cal also survived serious foul trouble at the end that saw five of the eight Bears that saw action saddled with four fouls at the game’s conclusion. But somehow, none of the five fouled out and Oregon never wrestled momentum away from the visitors because of the fouls.
For Oregon, their second loss after a school-record 13 straight wins to start the season had Coach Dana Altman using some pretty frank language afterwards. His Ducks appeared to lack Cal’s intensity at either end, and their inability to match up defensively in transition may have been their biggest flaw of the evening.
“Defensively, we’re not very good,” Altman admitted. “There’s no other way to put it. I’ve got to do some soul-searching and put us in some different positions, we’ve got to figure out the rotation.”
Cal defeated Oregon for the 12th consecutive time, and the Bears have never lost at Matthew Knight Arena, the Ducks’ new home that opened in January 2011. The Bears limited Oregon to 41 percent shooting and won the battle on the glass, 36-30.
Oregon was led by Joseph Young with 29 points, Mike Moser with 15 and Jonathon Loyd with 14. The Ducks didn’t get much of a boost from their deeper bench, as the five Oregon reserves that saw action shot a combined 3-13 and 0-5 on threes.
Cal got 20 points, 11 assists from Cobbs, 16 points, nine rebounds from Richard Solomon and 14 points from Tyrone Wallace.
The Bears look to go 3-0 in conference on Saturday when they travel to Corvallis to face the Beavers. Oregon State got a big win on Thursday as well, beating Stanford 81-72 at Gill Coliseum.