Oregon looks to complete sweep against California on the road
The last time Oregon men’s basketball played California, it was coming off a crushing road defeat to Oregon State. In their Pac-12 opener, the Ducks fell 70-57 to their in-state rivals in convincing fashion.
Looking back now, that game served as a wake up call.
“Losing to Oregon State was pretty bad to start the conference season,” Casey Benson said. “The bounce back was huge for us (though). It gave us some momentum as we got into the conference season, so we just have to build on that and come out and play with the same type of energy, same type of intensity like our backs are against the wall.”
Soon after, the now No. 11 ranked Ducks (20-4, 9-2 Pac-12) which were recently projected to make the Final Four by ESPN’s Seth Greenberg, returned home to beat a talented Golden Bears team by three points. This momentum and regained confidence eventually parlayed into a 9-1 record in conference play over this last month, giving Oregon sole possession of the Pac-12 lead.
“It was a big win because they’re a good team,” Dwayne Benjamin said. “We knew we had to just get that win for us to pick it up.”
Now, with seven games remaining on the season, Oregon will hit the road to play the very team that helped it get back on its feet back in early January.
Heading into the game, California (15-8, 5-5) is riding a 15-game home winning streak. Similar to when they headed to Arizona last week, which was riding a nation-best 49-game winning streak at the McKale Center before the Ducks snapped it, the Golden Bears are currently one of the toughest teams to play on the road on paper.
“Winning on the road in conference is obviously extremely tough, so we got to have the same focus as we did at Arizona, have the same intensity, approach it the same way defensively and rebounding,” Benson said.
Featuring projected NBA lottery pick Ivan Rabb (12.4 PPG), Jaylen Brown (15.8 PPG) and Jordan Matthews (13.4 PPG) – who Dwayne Benjamin says is “one of the best shooters in the conference” – Oregon will have its hands particularly full with one of the most talented trios in the country.
Guard Tyrone Wallace, who broke his hand last month and will be out for this game, expects to learn when he will back on floor after his Thursday appointment.
After taking a look at the tape of the first meeting, Altman saw how far his team has come. The ball movement has gotten better, the turnovers have been cut down – Oregon has been averaging 8.6 for the last five games – and the overall execution has taken consistent leaps forward.
Still, Altman expects another dogfight on the road.
“They’re very good at home,” Altman said. “They beat people pretty soundly over there, so we hope to get some things going, but they’ve done a great in their building of keeping people out of what they want to do.”
Both teams have improved since their first meeting and it will show when they meet tonight.
Oregon will be looking to extend its lead in the conference standings.
California will be looking to climb its way up the standings before the Pac-12 tournament.
Benjamin said after watching the tape, Oregon has gotten much better and added that is “what it’s all about: it’s about getting better each day that we come to practice, each game that we play and that’s what talk about everyday. We’re a lot better now.”
The game will air on ESPN 2 at 6 p.m.
Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKIm
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