Three Thoughts: Duck Hunt

Justin Cobbs delivered the game-winning shot at Oregon, looking like the X-factor in determining what California can accomplish this season.

1. Reversal of Fortune
When California is in a groove, it is the best team in the Pac-12 and proved it again Thursday with a sensational second-half performance capped by Justin Cobbs' jumper with 0.7 seconds for a 48-46 win at Oregon.

Unable to get out of its own way for the opening 20 minutes, the Golden Bears shot 57.1 percent from the field (12-of-21) after the break, showing the kind of execution that has been the hallmark during their surge over the last month. Their defense largely smothered the Pac-12 leaders, which combined with that degree of precision shooting late allowed Cal to overcome 16 turnovers and 14 offensive rebounds allowed.

It definitely wasn't flawless by any means, with Allen Crabbe a non-factor early because of foul trouble and starting forwards David Kravish and Richard Solomon unable to extend their recent scoring punch, but showed the intensity and tenacity on both ends of the court to come away with another important result.

2. Once Again Dynamic
While all the focus going into the game was on Crabbe and how he would respond after the much-publicized shove by head coach Mike Montgomery, but it was the performance of Cobbs that really carried Cal to victory. The redshirt junior had 14 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, elevating his play in the second half and taking the team's with him.

Cobbs has recovered his early season form, again balancing duties as both a scoring threat and distributor, a quiet but vital revival during this four-game winning streak. That role creates opportunities for the emerging consensus Pac-12 Player of the Year in Crabbe and the rest of the offense, which Cal needs with its inconsistency in the frontcourt and freshman Tyrone Wallace hitting a wall.

Outside of an aberration against Creighton, Montgomery knows what to expect from Crabbe on a game-to-game basis. That hasn't been the case with Cobbs, notably early in conference play.

But considering this recent stretch, it looks more and more like Cobbs who will be the determining factor in what Cal can achieve this season.

3. Pole Positioning
It happened in a rather improbable manner, but Cal now holds the tiebreakers over Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA for the top seed in the conference tournament, is one-game back in the chase for the regular-season championship, and looks to be perfectly positioned to make the NCAA tournament. At the same time, even a single loss could end up costing Cal a first-round bye in Las Vegas and threaten an at-large bid.

As thrilling as this result was, now is not the time to waste it all with a slip-up Saturday afternoon at Oregon State. The emotional energy that has been expended this past week makes a strong start against the Beavers that much more important.

Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan. Top Stories