Back on the road, back to reality: Bears falter against Ducks

Addison Briggs/Staff

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As the Pac-12 tournament draws near, each game counts for more. On Thursday, Cal and No. 13 Oregon faced off in Eugene with each looking to solidify their positions before heading to Las Vegas. The two sides battled it out in what turned into a beat down from the hometown team, as they took a commanding 90-56 win.

The game started with a bit of an unexpected twist, as Cal head coach Mark Fox elected to start freshman D.J. Thorpe against the No. 13 team in the country, hoping to gain an advantage from Thorpe’s size and physicality. The Ducks countered with a full-court press from the start, testing the Bears’ backcourt early on.

Oregon started off hot on the offensive end as well, shooting 5-5 early and getting off to a 14-7 lead following a deep three from standout senior Payton Pritchard. Pritchard went on to score eight straight for the Ducks as they got out to a commanding 19-10 lead.

With just over six minutes left in the half, Pritchard hit another insanely long three, bringing the home crowd to its feet and breaking the 1,900 career points mark. Cal trailed 31-18, looked completely lost offensively and was forced to call a timeout.

That timeout did little to help, as Oregon went on an unheard of 21-0 run with just under five minutes left in the first half, feeding off of Cal’s turnovers and inability to find the bottom of the net. The Ducks got out in transition with nine fast break points from the Bears’ four turnovers during that time.

The result was a 46-20 halftime lead for Oregon. The game was only at its halfway point, but for all intents and purposes, it was completely over. There was no way Cal was going to recover.

At the half, the Ducks had more than doubled up on the Bears in multiple statistical categories — 68% to 33% in field goal percentage, 16 to five in points off turnovers, and 15 to seven in rebounds.

The Bears started the second half a lot better offensively, using a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 15 with just under 12 minutes left on the clock. That didn’t last long, however, as the Ducks answered with an 8-0 run of their own — taking a 66-43 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the game.

Guard Matt Bradley hit a three for Cal, but Oregon was quickly on a run again, scoring 13 unanswered. The teams would continue to trade some more buckets in garbage time, as bench players from both sides got some late game action.

The Ducks’ 90 points against the Bears is the most that Cal has allowed all season. Oregon looked like it couldn’t miss, shooting an outstanding 71% from behind the arc and 60% from the field. Senior Anthony Mathis went 5-6 from deep on his way to a 17 performance for the Ducks. Pritchard also added 20 of his own.

Bradley led the Bears with 15 points and freshman Kuany Kuany recorded a career-high nine points in 16 minutes. If there’s one positive to take from this game, it’s that young players like Kuany and Bradley still have multiple years left with the program.

Oregon is now 16-0 at home this year and Cal is a polar opposite 1-12 outside of Berkeley. The Bears’ next opportunity to improve this number will be Saturday, as Cal closes out the regular season at Oregon State.

Jack Whaley covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @_jackdouglas_.