TIPOFF: 6 p.m. Thursday at Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, Ore. TV/Radio: ESPN2/910-AM.
Four days after “The Shove” kidnapped the spotlight from a Cal team that has won five of six games, the Golden Bears’ ability to focus will be tested as perhaps never before.
Cal visits Pac-12 Conference leader Oregon on Thursday night, and cannot afford to be sidetracked by anything related to coach Mike Montgomery’s sideline push of star junior Allen Crabbe against USC.
The Ducks will be eager to avenge a 58-54 loss in Berkeley 19 days ago, and they are at home, where they’ve lost just once in 16 games this season.
Cal has shown an improved ability to sharpen its focus in recent high-profile games, elevating its play in wins over Arizona and UCLA.
Thursday night’s game involves all sorts of baggage the players must discard. Crabbe said the team will concentrate solely on the game itself.
“It is the focus,” he said. “Nobody cares about the situation. It’s over with. It’s in the past.”
Montgomery, who received a reprimand from the Pac-12 office and offered private and public apologies to Crabbe and his players, is anxious for a return to normalcy.
“The team’s pretty positive right now. They don’t seem to have much of an issue with it,” he said. “We have a good enough relationship. They know me well enough.”
Crabbe said defense will be critical.
“Keep playing as a team, trusting each other on the offensive end and defensive end,” Crabbe said. “Defense has won the games for us.”
So have Crabbe and backcourt mate Justin Cobbs, who combined for 45 points in Sunday’s win over USC.
“Anytime you have two of the best guards in the in the league — if not the two best guards in the league — you’ve got a chance in every ballgame, which they do,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said.
“When those two guys get it going, they can play with anybody.”
ABOUT THE DUCKS: The No. 23 Ducks still seem unlikely to have the services of freshman PG Dominic Artis (10.2 ppg), who has missed the past seven games with a left foot injury. Oregon coach Dana Altman has been vague about the nature of the injury or a timetable for Artis’ return, but senior E.J. Singler said last week that the one-time Salesian HS star has a stress fracture and would be out another week or two. Artis was wearing a protective boot on Tuesday. … The Ducks have won three in a row after losing three straight, a drought that began with defeats at Stanford and Cal. … Oregon is 15-1 at home this season, losing 48-47 to Colorado on Feb. 7. … Altman needs one victory for No. 600 in his career. His Division I record is 476-276 in 24 seasons at Marshall, Kansas State, Creighton and UO.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 81-55. The Bears have won all 10 matchups with Oregon since Montgomery became coach at Cal before the 2008-09 season, including a 58-54 victory over then-No. 10 Oregon in Berkeley on Feb. 2.
ETC: Two-time reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week Allen Crabbe, with 1,424 career points, is 14 points shy of moving past Russ Critchfield (1966-68) and into the No. 10 spot on Cal’s career scoring list. … Five of Crabbe’s past six 20-point games have come on the road. … Now No. 53 in the RPI computer rankings, Cal is 6-9 against teams rated in the top 100 of the RPI. Oregon sits at No. 38.
WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays Oregon State on Saturday at Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, Ore. Tipoff is 3 p.m.
Cal (16-9, 8-5 Pac-12)
|SG Allen Crabbe||6-6||Jr.||19.8||5.7|
|PF Richard Solomon||6-10||Jr.||8.6||6.5|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||So.||8.4||7.0|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||Jr.||14.8||4.5*|
|SG Tyrone Wallace||6-3||Fr.||7.0||4.6|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Sr.||2.8||2.1*|
|C Robert Thurman||6-10||Sr.||4.8||3.8|
|F Bak Bak||6-9||Sr.||1.9||1.0|
Oregon (21-5, 10-3 Pac-12)
|C Tony Woods||6-11||Sr.||9.7||3.5|
|PF Arsalan Kazemi||6-7||Sr.||8.8||9.6|
|SF E.J. Singler||6-6||Sr.||11.8||5.0|
|SG Damyean Dotson||6-5||Fr.||11.5||4.0|
|PG Johnathan Loyd||5-8||Jr.||3.6||2.5*|
|F Carlos Emory||6-5||Sr.||10.4||4.4|
|C Waverly Austin||6-11||Jr.||3.9||3.0|
|F Ben Carter||6-8||Fr.||2.5||2.4|