Cal shocked by Dillon’s last second, game winner for No. 6 Oregon

February 23, 2017

Cal Bears, NCAA

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Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, left, lays up a shot over California’s Kingsley Okoroh (22) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. Oregon won 68-65. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY–To truly feel the Cal Bears’ heartache after Oregon’s Dillon Brooks capped the Ducks’ furious rally from 10 points down, 7:15 remaining with a game-winning three-pointer, you must first capture OU’s mindset coming into this pivotal Pac-12 matchup.

The Ducks–a marvelous, if not unique, combo of shot blocking and offensive efficiency–arrived in Berkeley with an almost immeasurable amount less to play for than the Haas Pavilion-emboldened Bears.  And that said it all, because this was undoubtedly the biggest game of Cal’s season to date.

For the Bears, it was win and their NCAA ticket was punched.  For the Ducks, the most talented team from Eugene in the last 15 seasons, it was win and their Pac-12 title aspirations–and beyond–were still shimmering.

And the Ducks played as if they were pre-occupied or wounded–take your pick–until the final minutes when Oregon surged, and Cal wilted.

For Cal, probably needing one stop–or one, clutch bucket–to salt it away, this was as maddening as losing gets at the Division I level.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said.  “It was a very emotional locker room.  It was a tough one for us.”

How tough? Oregon trailed by 14 at half, 16 early in the second half, and 10 after Cal’s Kameron Rooks missed a pair of free throws with 7:17 remaining.  But Cal again squandered an early, double-digit lead, got tentative offensively down the stretch, allowing Oregon to score 24 points in the final six-and-a-half minutes to pull it out.

“They made good plays down the stretch and we didn’t,” said Jabari Bird, who led Cal with 20 points. “Brooks hit tough shots. Those last two shots he hit were tough, contested shots and you can’t be upset with that. It was just the lead up to that, with being up by 10 with three to go, we can’t squander that.”

In all, the Ducks would score 52 points after halftime, and just 16 before, missing their first seven shots from distance and allowing the Bears to open up a 20-7 lead. But the Bears wouldn’t run away and hide, needing another hot scorer to back Bird’s efforts.  With less than three minutes remaining,  the Ducks got three, consecutive 3-pointers to slice Cal’s lead to one. With 1:48 remaining,  Oregon took their first lead of the night on a Chris Boucher layup.

Ivan Rabb would tie it with an offensive rebound and a putback for Cal with nine seconds remaining. That set the stage for Brooks’ heroics. The 6’7″ forward took the ball near midcourt, then dribbled into a contested three near the top of the circle.  With Stephen Domingo in position to contest the shot, Brooks rattled it home.

“They thought they had the game and we stole it from them,” Brooks said.

“I was disappointed at halftime,” coach Dana Altman said. “I liked how the pace of the game changed.  Points off of turnovers were definitely the difference in the game going 19 and six. I think increasing the pace helped a lot and took them out of their rhythm.”

The Bears fell to 18-9, 9-6, and they will conclude the regular season with a 1-6 record against ranked opponents, with the only win at USC in January.  Friday’s game against Oregon State won’t take the sting out of Wednesday’s loss, but the Bears must be ready because another misstep against OSU would be an unforgivable, bad loss.

“I`m not a part of that committee,” Martin said.  “I think we’re an NCAA tournament team but we still have work to do.”

Rabb finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and Kameron Rooks contributed 10 points, five rebounds.   

Brooks led Oregon (25-4, 14-2) with 22 points, Boucher had 18.

 

 

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