Cal men’s basketball suffers 1st Pac-12 loss of season to Oregon

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On a night when the Oregon men’s basketball team learned that it was losing redshirt senior guard Dylan Ennis for the rest of the season, the Ducks out-hustled Cal in Eugene, Ore., on Wednesday.

Despite one of freshman forward Jaylen Brown’s best statistical games of his still young career, Oregon came away with a win, handing the Bears their first Pac-12 loss of the season, 68-65.

The Bears (12-4, 2-1 Pac-12) started the game struggling to shoot, although the Ducks (12-3, 1-1) didn’t fare much better themselves. The teams shot a combined 5-17 before six minutes had passed in the first half, with Cal struggling against Oregon’s press, appearing to lack energy compared to the Ducks. Forward Chris Boucher, who came into the game leading the Pac-12 in blocks, had a monster game defensively, finishing with four blocks and four steals.

The Bears’ struggles came from unexpected places, with guard Jordan Mathews going 0-8 in the match despite coming into the night averaging 13.7 points per game. Instead, it was a Duck who came out hot from the three-point line, as guard Tyler Dorsey had two consecutive treys that stretched Oregon’s lead out to 11-6.

Eventually going down by six, Cal began a comeback courtesy of its two star freshmen forwards, Ivan Rabb and Brown, who scored seven and five points in the first half, respectively.

Junior guard Sam Singer, however, took over the game for the Bears, creating a turnover and scoring the next three points to give Cal a 14-13 lead. Not only did he go on to add four points in the half, but Singer also completely got the Bears’ rhythm going, adding on two rebounds and an assist.

With Singer’s lead the Bears went on a 9-0 run to take a three-point lead against the Ducks, and it seemed Cal was finally showing its might against the smaller Oregon team.

The offensive success only lasted for a short while, with the Bears continuing to struggle against the Ducks’ press defense, committing 10 total turnovers in the opening half to Oregon’s six, although the Ducks only scored two points off those giveaways. Oregon’s success also came from its ability to take advantage of its opportunities on offense with a commanding seven offensive rebounds.

Behind Boucher, who ended the game with 18 points, the Ducks charged back to tie the game at 27 going into the half.

The Bears came out of the half shooting, with Rabb taking over and scoring five points in the first five minutes. With Mathews continuing to struggle, however, Cal had a hard time getting into any offensive rhythm.

Offensive rebounds began to make more of an impact, with Boucher adding on to his point and rebound totals to keep the Bears off, despite the dominance of senior guard Tyrone Wallace and Brown. Cal continued to struggle to make the shots, failing to make a three-pointer all game, shooting 0-12, in addition to going into the last 10 minutes of the game having only made one of its 19 field goals from outside the paint.

Despite Rabb and Brown’s best efforts, Boucher was just too much for the weak Cal offense to handle, containing any attempt the Bears made to wiggle their way back in. The usually strong Cal defense was nonexistent in the game and without the help of Mathews and junior guard Jabari Bird’s perimeter shooting, Cal could just not score enough. With a late resurgence in the second half, Brown led both teams with 20 points and nine rebounds in the game, but the Bears simply couldn’t finish it off.

With Wallace missing two free throws, down 60-57 with just more than a minute to play, it appeared that any chance Cal had to keep its Pac-12 record clean had disappeared. A three by Dorsey to take a six-point lead with a minute to play sealed the deal.

Alaina Getzenberg covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @agetzenberg.