Oregon men’s basketball vs. Cal was a game in which both teams needed a win. The Ducks were coming off a double-digit loss to Colorado, and Cal was on a 10-game losing streak.
The Ducks (14-9, 5-5,) prevailed, beating the California Golden Bears (5-17, 0-10) 73-62 at Matt Knight Arena.
Here are three takeaways from the Ducks’ win:
Oregon basketball is inconsistent. They’ll start fast and finish slow, and vice versa. Today, Oregon started sloppy. The Ducks turned the ball over nine times in the first 12 and a half minutes and Cal capitalized by scoring a majority of its early points off turnovers.
Freshman guard Will Richardson had three during the 12 minute span. Kenny Wooten had an egregious one, where right after a rebound he threw it to the Cal bench. Cal had three turnovers, almost in a row, from cutting into a passing lane while Oregon was rotating the ball on the perimeter.
“We do some things that I’ve got no explanation for,” head coach Dana Altman said. “We just got to be smarter than that. We’ve got to be more basketball savvy than that.”
Altman said he’s OK with 10 turnovers in a game; he doesn’t want his squad to be too conservative. But Oregon had 11 in the first half.
“You’re screaming simple plays at them all night,” Altman said. “I think if you’ve been in our practice they don’t listen very well.”
Oregon has been good this season at taking care of the ball. Entering the game, they turned the ball over on 17.8 percent of its possessions, one percentage point below the national average, according to KenPom.com.
Tonight’s 24 percent mark won’t cut it, but the silver lining was that the Ducks played Cal. The Golden Bears are the Pac-12’s worst team, and they didn’t have the offensive ability to take advantage of Oregon’s bad offensive start.
Oregon’s averaging 13.3 turnovers in losses and the Ducks had 15 tonight, so they avoided what could’ve been the formula for their demise.
Oregon has struggled to shoot the ball this season, and certainly of late. In the 73-51 loss to Colorado, the Ducks shot 4-for-25 from 3-point range. Senior forward Paul White has been the only consistent shooter all season, but tonight Oregon showed no lack of confidence.
The Ducks took 17 threes in the first half. They let it fly and hit a solid 37.9 percent of them in the game. Three-pointers accounted for 45 percent of their points, far over the 31 percent average on the season.
Pritchard, who has had a down year shooting from deep, was 5-for-9. He led the Ducks with 20 points, and he also grabbed 10 rebounds for his second career double-double.
“Today, I was just more ready to shoot,” he said. “I was ready, I knew when the shots were going to come and I was going to shoot them.”
Oregon rushed some threes early, but when Oregon got dribble penetration on Cal’s zone, they were able to distribute to open shooters.
“We’ve been struggling shooting the ball,” Altman said. “Just got to be working at it. … The threes that we did hit were all penetration kicks. That’s why we had 18 assists on 29 baskets. “
Pritchard added: “Guys were attacking, hitting the seams and just allowing everyone else to get open.”
Part of Oregon’s consistency issue makes it difficult to pull away late in games. The 11-point halftime lead was enough to keep Cal at bay, but that’s where it hovered for most of the second half.
Cal never threatened, but Oregon never forced the Golden Bears to surrender. Oregon’s defense is its strength this season, but Oregon allowed Cal to penetrate into the lanes. Like the Ducks for most of the game, Cal got open threes in the second half. Cal’s 5-of-8 second half three point shooting kept them in it.
“We just gave them easy threes,” Pritchard said. “I think every game we’ve been giving teams confidence when they hit wide open threes. The end is when we need to play the best defense. … If they hit tough ones, they hit tough ones. But we gave them easy ones tonight.”
Altman was not happy with how easy Cal was able to penetrate from the dribble. Stanford comes to Eugene on Sunday, and the Cardinal are better at getting to the basket.
“Definitely next game we’re going to have to tighten that up,” Pritchard said. “They’re a little more athletic, longer, so just got to tighten that up.”