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Cal basketball: Bears try to salvage split in Oregon

It’s very early in what promises to be a volatile Pac-12 basketball season.

Need evidence:

A victory by Cal (12-4, 2-1) on Saturday evening at Oregon State (10-3, 1-1) and the Bears could possibly move into a tie for first place.

A loss and the Bears suffer their first two-game sweep in the state of Oregon since 2005.

The 6:30 p.m. matchup (Pac-12 Networks) features a pair of teams coming off their first conference defeats of the season.

Cal had swept Colorado and Utah at home the previous weekend, but lost 68-65 at Oregon on Wednesday night.

OSU beat those same Ducks 70-57 on the opening weekend of the conference schedule, then sustained a 78-72 home loss to Stanford in a game the Beavers never led after the opening 6½ minutes.

“I think maybe a little bit of the performance the other night was these guys are learning how to handle success,” OSU coach Wayne Tinkle told the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

Exactly which team was Tinkle talking about?

Certainly could have been Cal, which was so good the previous weekend but turned the ball over 18 times, shot 0 for 12 from the 3-point arc and missed 10 free throws in a sloppy loss to the Ducks.

“We can’t let a loss linger over to a different game,” senior point guard Tyrone Wallace said afterward. “Oregon State is what we’re focused on. We’ve got to come out and learn from this game tonight, come out and play harder, correct our mistakes. We’ve just got to play better.”

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Cal basketball: Oregon game thread

FINAL SCORE: Oregon 68, Cal 65.

Cal missed three free throws in the final 2 minutes, 17 seconds after pulling within three points and lost at Oregon on Wednesday night. The Bears (12-4, 2-1) fell out of first place in the Pac-12 and are now 1-4 away from Haas Pavilion. Oregon is 12-4, 1-1.

Some quick impressions:

WHY CAL LOST: A lot reasons, starting with some ghastly offensive numbers. Cal turned the ball over 18 times – half again above their season average – to go with just six assists. The Bears shot 0 for 12 from the 3-point arc. Jordan Mathews, who scored 32 points against the Ducks when the teams last played at Matthew Knight Arena in 2014, shot 0 for 8 and was scoreless. And the Bears made just 13 of 23 free throws. They also surrendered 10 offensive rebounds.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Freshman Jaylen Brown helped keep the Bears close in the second half, when he scored 13 of his game-high 20 points. Brown shot 8 for 10 from the field and had nine rebounds and two steals.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Oregon freshman guard Tyler Dorsey – who was recruited hard last year by Cal – hit a 3-pointer with 57.2 seconds left, extending the Ducks’ lead from 60-57 to six points. Dorsey finished with 16 points.

TURNING POINT: The Bears were down just 60-57 after Brown made the first of two free throws with 2:17 left. He missed the second, then senior Tyrone Wallace missed two with 1:27 left. Moments later, Dorsey pushed the Oregon margin back to six points.

WHAT WE LEARNED: Cal was the quicker, more athletic team against Colorado and Utah last weekend, and its size made a difference in both victories. But the Ducks were the aggressors here, and their speed bothered the Bears. The Ducks ran circles around Cal big men Kameron Rooks and Kingsley Okoroh, although freshman forward Ivan Rabb had 17 points and eight rebounds before fouling out in the final seconds. Cal could not find open looks on the perimeter and never developed any rhythm on offense.

TRENDS: Cal has now lost twice in a row to Oregon after beating the Ducks 12 straight times, six of those in Eugene.

BUCKING TRENDS: Cal was 5-1 against teams ranked in the RPI top-50 before the loss to the No. 20 Ducks. Oregon shot 52 percent in the second half to finish the game at 40.7 percent, becoming the first Cal opponent in six games to crack 40 percent.

WHAT’S NEXT: Saturday vs. Oregon State at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. Tipoff is 6:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks). The Beavers (10-2, 1-0 before facing Stanford on Wednesday night) enjoyed their first sellout home crowd in three years last Sunday against Oregon, and rewarded them with a 70-57 victory. Senior guard Gary Payton entered the week averaging 16.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists, while freshmen Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson Jr. and Drew Eubanks combined to average about 30 points.

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Basketball: Five things to know about Cal vs. Oregon

Cal (12-3, 2-0) takes on Oregon (11-3, 1-1) at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene on Wednesday night with the chance to move into sole possession of first place in the Pac-12. Tipoff is 6 pm on ESPN2

Here are five things to know about the matchup:

* Cal has dominated the Ducks in Eugene. The Bears have won six straight on Oregon’s home floor, part of a stretch where they have 12 victories in 13 games overall. Cal has not lost on the road to Oregon in Ben Braun’s final season of 2007-08. (The teams did not play at Eugene last season and Oregon won 80-69 in Berkeley). Worth nothing: Oregon is 9-0 at home this season.

* Cal center Kameron Rooks and Kingsley Okoroh played significant roles in wins over Colorado and Utah — combining for 18 points, 16 rebounds and 9 blocks in the two games — but could play less against Oregon. The Ducks are smaller – with just one starter taller than 6-7 – so 7-footers Rooks and Okoroh don’t match up as well. Will coach Cuonzo Martin make a change or stay big and force the Ducks to adjust? Expect backup point guard Sam Singer to see significant playing time.

* Junior guard Jordan Mathews should look forward to a return to Matthew Knight Arena. As a freshman two seasons ago, he scored what remains his career-high of 32 points in Cal’s win. Jordan is on a roll, averaging 18.5 points and shooting 17 for 32 from the 3-point arc the past four games. He leads the Pac-12 with 39 made 3-pointers.

* Oregon could be without senior point guard Oregon senior point guard Dylan Ennis, but the Ducks have plenty of depth. Ennis, a transfer from Villanova, was back in a protective boot Tuesday at practice after sitting out the first 12 games with a foot injury. Help off the bench starts with sixth-man Chris Boucher, a 6-10, 190-pound senior from Montreal, who averages 12 points and leads the team in rebounding (8.6) and blocked shots (3.1).

* The Bears don’t have all the good freshmen in this game, but they could have. Cal went hard in recruiting after Los Angeles prep shooting guard Tyler Dorsey, but Oregon won the battle, preventing the Bears from lining up Dorsey alongside freshmen Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown. Dorsey has scored 20 points three times and leads Pac-12 freshmen with a 14.6 average.

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Basketball: Cal’s improved defense has squelched past seven opponents

Cal’s improved commitment to defense has limited seven straight opponents to 65 points or fewer. The Bears have won six of those games, losing 63-62 in overtime at Virginia, currently ranked No. 4 in the country.

Over those seven games, opponents have scored an average of 18.6 points below their season average.

Here’s a breakdown of those seven games:

Incarnate Word: Cal allowed 62; Incarnate averages 76. The difference: minus-14

Saint Mary’s: Cal allowed 59; Saint Mary’s averages 80. The difference: minus-21

Coppin State: Cal allowed 51; Coppin averages 72. The difference: minus-21

Virginia: Cal allowed 63; Virginia averages 76. The difference: minus-13

Davidson: Cal allowed 60; Davidson averages 82. The difference: minus-22

Colorado: Cal allowed 65; Colorado averages 80. The difference: minus-15

Utah: Cal allowed 58; Utah averages 82. The difference: minus-24

Average: Cal allowed 59.7; opponents average 78.3. The difference: minus-18.6

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Basketball: Cal ready for first conference road test

The Cal and Saint Mary’s College basketball teams, having largely gorged on home cooking for the first two months of the season, will test the theory this week that defense travels.

The Golden Bears, whose 11-0 record at Haas Pavilion has fueled a 12-3 mark and 2-0 start to the Pac-12 schedule, visits Oregon on Wednesday, then Oregon State on Saturday. The Ducks and Beavers, a combined 17-1 at home, won’t be accommodating.

The Gaels, 13-1 overall and 4-0 in the West Coast Conference, are about to leave the Bay Area for the first time since March. Twelve of their victories have come at McKeon Pavilion to go with a win at Santa Clara and a four-point defeat at Cal. Saint Mary’s should be road-tested Thursday at Loyola Marymount and Saturday at Pepperdine.

No. 25 UCLA traveled last weekend for games against Washington and Washington State teams expected to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12, and lost twice. WCC power Gonzaga won at Santa Clara by two points and needed overtime to escape USF with a victory.

Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said it’s “100 percent” accurate that a good defense is the best company to keep on the road.

“No matter how good a shooting team you are, and we’re pretty good, on the road your margin for error is less and you better cushion yourself with your defense,” he said.

Cal guard Jordan Mathews expects a challenge in Oregon, but added, “We do what we do — move the ball, lock down on defense, just play hard.”

The Bears haven’t allowed any of their past five opponents to score more than 63 points, and they rank No. 8 in the NCAA in field-goal percentage defense at 36.9 percent. Cal is No. 30 nationally in defensive efficiency, according to statistician Ken Pomeroy.

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Basketball: Cal topples No. 21 Utah, 71-58

Some of the best players in recent Cal basketball history were among the 10,188 at Haas Pavilion on Sunday to watch the Golden Bears improve to 2-0 in the Pac-12 with a 71-58 win over No. 21 Utah.

Shareef Abdur Rahim, Leon Powe and Sean Lampley, sitting courtside, got another dose of what is becoming this Cal team’s identity: Defense.

“As long as I’m coaching . . . toughness, play hard and defend,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “When you have a level of toughness, a defensive identity, you have a chance to be very successful.”

Cal (12-3, 2-0) improved to 11-0 at home by holding the Utes to nearly 26 points below their average on 38.5-percent shooting. It was the fifth straight game the Bears’ opponent failed to convert 40 percent of its shots.

“I think our potential is really good,” said freshman forward Ivan Rabb, who had a career-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds. “We’re improving on defense. Everybody on the team is buying in. That’s why we’re playing so well lately.”

Utah (11-4, 0-2) will fall out of the Top-25 after losing at both Stanford and Cal.

Two nights after shutting down Colorado star forward Josh Scott, the Bears did their best to limit Utah sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. The 7-footer from Austria – projected as a first-round NBA draft pick next spring – didn’t make his first field goal until the final 5 minutes of the first half while laboring to a 19-point effort.

The Bears’ tag-team 7-foot duo of Kameron Rooks (6 points, 2 rebounds) and Kingsley Okoroh (5 rebounds, 3 blocks) kept Poeltl from getting comfortable and stayed on the floor even after getting into foul trouble.

“Poeltl’s better than I thought,” Martin said. “I thought Kam and King did another good job. That’s not an easy thing to do.”

Guard Jordan Mathews, whose three second-half 3-pointers keyed his 14-point performance, said the Bears are learning to count on their two big men.

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Basketball notebook: Cal big men face another tall order in Utes’ 7-foot center Jakob Poeltl

Another elite Pac-12 big man is visiting Haas Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.

This time, it’s 7-foot sophomore Jakob Poeltl of Austria, who will lead No. 21 Utah into Berkeley two days after the Utes (11-3, 0-1) were upset 70-68 in overtime at Stanford.

They will be ready for the 4:30 .m. tipoff (Pac-12 Networks).

So will Cal (11-3, 1-0), based on what we saw Friday night in an impressive 79-65 win over Colorado.

The challenge that night was slowing 6-10 senior forward Josh Scott, who entered the game averaging 18.4 points and 9.4 rebounds. Coach Cuonzo Martin needed his big men to accomplish the task largely 1-on-1 so that the Bears’ perimeter players could stay close to three CU guards who shoot better than 40 percent from the 3-point arc.

Thanks to strong efforts from 7-footers Kameron Rooks and, especially, Kingsley Okoroh off the bench, the Bears fulfilled that game plan. Rooks and Okoroh limited Scott to 4-for-16 shooting and Colorado made just 3 for 11 from deep.

Asked about the team’s defensive improvement, Martin said, “We’re getting there.”

CU coach Tad Boyle was unhappy with his squad, but impressed by the Bears.

“I knew coming into this game that this was going to be a game about toughness,” he said afterward. “We got beat in every phase of the game.”

The assignment may be tougher still against Poeltl, who is regarded as a first-round NBA draft pick if he elects to leave school next spring.

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Football: Cal signs 4-star wide receiver

Melquise Stovall, a consensus four-star wide receiver from Paraclete High in Lancaster, has signed a financial aid agreement with Cal and becomes the ninth member of the Bears’ 2016 recruiting class who will arrive on campus for the spring semester and be available to participate in spring workouts.

Stovall, a 5-foot-9, 185-pounder (listed by Scout as 5-7 1/2, 177) , is projected as an inside slot receiver for the Bears. He is among three receivers who will enroll at midyear and compete for openings at a position where Cal is losing five seniors.

Rated as the No. 3 all-purpose player by both 247Sports and Rivals, Stovall totaled 4,785 all-purpose yards during his three-year high school varsity career. Stovall played on both sides of the ball and as a senior scored 14 touchdowns, including at least one rushing, receiving, returning a kick, a punt and an interception.

He caught 46 passes for 740 yards and five TDs this fall, along with 450 rushing yards and six more scores.

As a junior, he totaled 2,455 all-purpose yards — 1,603 of them rushing — and scored 24 touchdowns.

Stovall had offers from every Pac-12 school except Stanford and Oregon, according to Scout, along with Miami and Notre Dame. He committed to Cal on Dec. 21.

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Basketball: Cal’s defense smothers Colorado

UPDATED

Cal showed off a glimpse royalty in its Pac-12 Conference opener against Colorado on Friday night at Haas Pavilion.

Sophomore center Kingsley Okoroh – known by his teammates as simply King – came off the bench to deliver the performance of his career as the Bears beat the Buffaloes 79-65 in front of 9,964 pleased and surprised fans.

Okoroh, who had scored just five points all season, posted a career-high 10 to go with five rebounds and four blocked shots and helped set an aggressive defensive tone that put the Buffaloes on their heels from the start.

“I tell the guys, we defend and it doesn’t matter who’s on the floor,” coach Cuonzo Martin said, “because every time down when those guys are struggling to get a shot off, to even get a pass, then you’ve done your job.”

Martin said he saw Okoroh’s progress in recent practices.

“Coach Martin has always had confidence in me. I just have been inconsistent,” Okoroh said. “Today I finally showed what I can do. I hope to keep doing that.”

Cal (11-3, 1-0) led by 23 points with less than 6 minutes left on the way to its 10th home victory without a loss.

The Buffs (11-3, 0-1), whose only two previous losses came against top-25 teams Iowa State and SMU, arrived in Berkeley averaging 83 points per game. But they missed their first nine shots, trailed 10-0 and never recovered.

The Bears try to build on their strong conference start when they play Sunday evening against a No. 21 Utah squad that was upset 70-68 in overtime at Stanford on Friday night.

Cal, which won for the seventh time in its past eight games, was led by 22 points from junior shooting guard Jordan Mathews, who missed all four of his 3-point tries in the first half, then hit five straight in the second half.

Freshman Jaylen Brown added 17 points and 11 rebounds and point guard Tyrone Wallace contributed 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.

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Basketball: Cal braces for big man Josh Scott and potent Colorado squad in Pac-12 opener

Big man Josh Scott will only be a piece of the challenge for Cal (10-3) on Friday night when Colorado (11-2) visits Haas Pavilion in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.

Tipoff is 8 p.m. (Pac-12) Networks.

Scott, a 6-foot-10 senior, is second in the conference with an 18.4 scoring average. He’s shooting 62.3 percent from the field and grabbing 9.4 rebounds per game. He’s blocked 24 shots.

“Yeah, but that’s expected,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said of Scott’s performance, “I just think the other guys, the way they’re shooting the ball, the things they’re doing, makes them a tougher team to defend. We expect Josh to be Josh.”

The “other guys” include three players ranked among the top eight in the Pac-12 in 3-point accuracy: sophomores Dominique Collier (.487) and George King (.460) and junior Josh Fortune (.429), a transfer from Providence.

“Good team, they’re playing well,” Martin said. “If you double the post, they find the shooters.”

That means 7-foot center Kameron Rooks likely will get the man-to-man assignment on Scott while 6-11 freshman Ivan Rabb matches against 6-9 junior forward Wesley Gordon.

Martin said he’s pleased with the improvements Rooks has made, especially on defense.

“He wants that challenge — he wants to guard whoever’s the best guy,” Martin said.

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