A week after Jordan Mathews put up an inept performance against Stanford, the Cal men’s basketball team relied on the freshman guard’s hot shooting Thursday night in Eugene, Ore.
Behind Mathews’ career-high 32 points — including going 3-for-4 from behind the arc — the Bears were able to outgun Oregon’s efficient offense and win their second Pac-12 game, 96-83.
Mathews has filled in for fellow freshman Jabari Bird the past three games while Bird recovers from an ankle injury. Last week though, Mathews struggled against the Cardinal in his third career start, shooting just 1-of-7 from the field and committing four fouls. Mathews was visibly frustrated in that game, often shaking his head as his shots refused to fall.
But on Thursday, the freshman guard responded. Cal (11-4, 2-0 Pac-12) turned to Mathews early as he dropped 20 points on Oregon (13-2, 1-2) in the first half alone. Utilizing a variety of drives to the rim and smooth jumpers, Mathews terrorized the Ducks throughout the entire game.
“Thirty-two for a freshman on the road, that’s pretty good stuff,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “He kept us going in that first half.”
After the long winter break, the No. 17 Ducks came out playing sloppy basketball. Oregon committed nine turnovers in the first half, leading to 14 points for the Bears and contributing to Cal’s 46-42 lead at halftime. Though the Ducks were running their usual formidable attack — hitting 55.6 percent of their shots in the first half — the turnovers allowed Cal to keep the edge.
In the second half, Oregon righted the ship while Cal became the sloppy team that attempted — and often failed — to complete high-risk passes in the hopes of getting an open look. The Bears finished the game with 17 turnovers — three more than the Ducks. Yet Cal continued shooting at a remarkable 52 percent, while Oregon’s normally potent offense cooled off to 41 percent on the night.
Players such as Oregon’s Mike Moser, who hit just 3-of-12 in the second half, struggled to knock down shots in the latter portion of the game. Oregon hit just 29.7 percent of its attempts in the second half, including an awful 1-of-12 from three-point range.
That mediocre second half shooting allowed the Bears — still shorthanded without Bird or junior guard Ricky Kreklow — to do something that few could have expected coming in to the game: beat Oregon in a shootout.
“When you think about it, being down some players and coming on the road, you feel pretty good,” Montgomery said.
Justin Cobbs added 20 points, and each of Cal’s starters got into double digits as the Bears were able to score from anywhere on the court. Cal also out-rebounded the Ducks 36-30 on the night. The result was the Bears’ highest scoring game of the season en route to an upset over Oregon and an unblemished 2-0 start to Pac-12 play.
“It gives us some confidence to know we’re capable of beating a good team,” Montgomery said. “That’s first and foremost.”