Five mornings ago in Seattle, the deck was stacked against the Bears. They were on the road, they’d traveled the day before a morning game, they were tired, they were a little beat up and they were facing a Washington team motivated by the reality that another defeat would drop them three gmes out of first place in the loss column.
“Excuses are for losers,” senior guard Patrick Christopher said this week.
The Bears made no excuses for a 84-69 defeat that really wasn’t that close.
Tonight, the situation is reversed. It’s Oregon that’s on the road and riding a three-game losing streak. It’s Oregon that starts four underclassmen against a team featuring four senior starters.
And the Bears are home again — with class back in session and their students expected to be loud. They are hoping a couple of their wounded players are back, but clear about one thing: They must win this game, regardless of they circumstances.
Oregon plays the uptempo pace that should fuel Cal’s offense, assuming the Bears defend and rebound. Jerome Randle is sure to be motivated after a five-point, eight-turnover effort at Washington. The senior point guard has had just one other subpar game this season — an 11-point performance while battling stomach cramps in a loss to UCLA –and he responded the next two games by totaling 60 points and 14 rebounds.
The Bears are one-half back back of first-place Arizona State, which is idle tonight. Two victories this weekend, and Cal goes to Arizona next week no worse than tied for first place.
OREGON SCOUT: Coach Ernie Kent, in his 13th season, has changed his lineup several times in recent weeks, but likely will go with a starting five that includes two freshmen forwards, sophomore center Michael Dunigan, sophomore point guard Malcolm Armstead and senior guard Tajuan Porter . . . The Ducks opened Pac-10 play by sweeping a road series in Washington, then lost three in a row at home . . . After averaging 90.5 ppg in the two wins in Washington, the Ducks are scoring at just a 58.0 clip in their past three games, shooting 35.3 percent from the field, 22.0 percent from the 3-point arc . . . Dunigan can be a load, but is foul prone and often seems to be an afterthought in the Oregon offense . . . Porter and Armstead both were replaced in the starting lineup for the Ducks’ most recent game against Arizona, then played a majority of the minutes, anyway. Both are expected to start tonight . . . Junior guard LeKendric Longmire has played well off the bench recently, including a career-high 18 points vs. Arizona last weekend.
MONTY ON THE DUCKS: “Maybe they are a little streaky sometimes but Armstead is really a good get. I really like him and Porter has always been a difficult kid to guard and then with Dunigan inside they really have the ability to score the ball. Their pace is good, maybe they have been a little inconsistent, but they are young. They don’t have a lot of juniors and seniors and with they youth comes some inconsistency. They will have some great wins, maybe they will have some losses that will make you shake your head but they will have some great wins.
“The style is the same. They are up and down and spread out. I think the style has been pretty similar for years. Dunigan is better in his second year and they are better, there is no question about that. All those kids who were freshmen last year are now sophomores and have gotten a year under their belt. They were great players to begin with, but they now have some experience. And Armstead is a great addition.”
INJURY LEDGER: Cal center Markhuri Sanders-Frison (back spasms) and sixth-man Jorge Gutierrez (sprained knee) both are questionable for tonight. Oregon senior forward Joevan Catron, who averaged 5.5 ppg and 5.8 rpg over the first four games of the season, has not played since due to a back injury.
RANDLE VS. PORTER: This is the seventh career meeting between Cal’s Jerome Randle and Oregon’s Tajuan Porter, the super-quick but vertically challenged senior guards from the Midwest. The game ledger is even at 3-3 since their freshmen season. Here’s how the 5-foot-8 Chicago native Randle and the 5-6 Detroit product Porter stack up statistically in six meetings:
PPG APG TOs FG% 3PT%
Jerome Randle 12.2 3.2 1.8 56.3 37.5
Tajuan Porter 16.2 1.7 2.5 40.5 41.2
THE SERIES: Cal won both games vs. Oregon a year ago and leads 73-55 all-time.
MISCELLANY: Cal senior Jerome Randle is fifth nationally in FT accuracy at 92.7 percent . . . Oregon senior Tajuan Porter (1,601 points) and Randle (1,515) rank 1-2 among active Pac-10 scorers . . . Cal is 9-1 in home games this season, Oregon 2-2 on the road . . . Cal’s three senior 1,000-point scorers — Randle (8th in school history at 1,515), Patrick Christopher (10th/1,434) and Theo Robertson (32nd/1,057) – have combined to score 4,006 career points, second-most by any senior threesome in school history . . . Christopher has started all 50 games the past two seasons and 56 in a row dating back to the 2007-08 season . . . Having already played 116 games at Cal, Christopher is on pace to break the school record of 128 by Keith Smith (1987-90).
TIPOFF: 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley.
CAL (11-6, 3-2)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SF Theo Robertson 6-6 Sr. 14.0 4.4
PF Jamal Boykin 6-8 Sr. 11.1 6.3
PF Omondi Amoke 6-7 So. 5.5 5.5
SG Patrick Christopher 6-5 Sr. 16.5 5.6
PG Jerome Randle 5-10 Sr. 19.5 4.8*
G D.J. Seeley 6-2 Sr. 2.3 1.3
G Nikola Knezevic 6-2 Sr. 2.7 0.4
C Max Zhang 7-2 So. 3.8 2.9
Oregon (10-7, 2-3)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF E.J. Singler 6-7 Fr. 5.4 4.2
SF Jamil Wilson 6-7 Fr. 5.4 3.9
C Michael Dunigan 6-10 So. 11.8 5.4
SG Tajuan Porter 5-6 Sr. 12.8 2.2*
PG Malcolm Armstead 5-10 So. 11.5 4.2*
G Teondre Williams 6-4 So. 8.5 2.9
G LeKendric Longmire 6-5 Jr. 7.6 3.3
G Garrett Sim 6-1 So. 6.2 2.2
* – Assists