Only three teams this season have won a college basketball game without hitting a three-pointer, and though California has been playing arguably its best basketball over the past two weeks, the Golden Bears would not be the fourth.
Cal went 0-for-12 from beyond the arc on Wednesday, in a 68-65 loss to Oregon, which earned its first Pac-12 win by dealing Cal its first conference loss, at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.
6-foot-10 senior Oregon forward Chris Boucher – a transfer from Northwest College in Wyoming – scored a team-high 18 points, and was a difference-maker down the stretch. After Cal freshman Ivan Rabb split a pair of free throws with 5:22 left to bring the Bears within two of the Ducks, Boucher nailed a three-pointer and then got back quickly on defense to make a flying block on a three-ball by sniper Jordan Mathews.
That was the closest the Bears would get for the rest of the game, as Tyler Dorsey – a one-time Cal recruiting target – hit a corner three in front of his own bench for the dagger with 57.3 seconds left to give the Ducks a six-point lead.
The Bears (12-4, 2-1 in Pac-12) got 46 points in the paint to the Ducks’ 32, but most crucially, Oregon, while shooting just 40.7% from the field, went 7-for-21 from three-point range, while the Bears came up empty from distance, with Mathews going 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-4 from three.
Beyond that, Boucher and 6-foot-9 sophomore Jordan Bell provided consistent challenges on the inside for the Bears' big men. Rabb was limited to just eight minutes in the first half with foul trouble, and though he finished with 17 points, he did foul out with 14 seconds left. Kameron Rooks was dinged with an early foul just 2:30 into the game, and quickly sat down for Kingsley Okoroh.
By the time there were 11:04 left in the game, Rooks, Rabb, Sam Singer and point guard Tyrone Wallace each had three fouls, and the Bears finished the game with 25 personal fouls, as the Ducks went 13-of-26 from the free-throw line, including Boucher's 5-of-7 mark.
Dorsey, for his part, went 4-of-6 from the charity stripe, and hit back-to-back three-pointers in the first half to quell a small 4-1 run by the Bears, giving Oregon the 11-6 lead. The two teams then went more than two minutes without hitting a field goal, until a tip-in by Elgin Cook gave the Ducks a six-point lead with 12:34 to go.
The Bears then went on an 11-2 run, fueled by five points from Singer, who played stout and active defense on Dorsey, and forced a turnover during that span. Singer finished with seven points -- all in the first half -- with two rebounds and one assist, and fouled out with seven seconds left.
Between Oregon’s largest first-half lead and the end of Cal’s 11-2 sprint, the Ducks turned the ball over four times, and went 1-for-5 from the field, hitting two of their last 10 shots as the Bears took an 18-15 lead.
But, in a game that saw 15 lead changes, that margin didn’t hold long, as the teams finished the first half knotted at 27-27.
Dorsey finished the half 2-for-3 from three, while the rest of Oregon went 0-for-9 from beyond the arc. The Ducks had out-rebounded the Bears, 21-18, and Oregon’s press defense frustrated Cal, to the tune of 10 turnovers. While the Ducks only scored two points off of those 10 turnovers, they scored nine off of the Bears’ eight turnovers in the second half, while holding Cal to zero points on the fast break after halftime.
While the Bears shot 15-of-30 after the half, the Ducks -- who shot 11-of-34 before halftime -- found their stroke, going 13-of-25 from the field and 5-of-9 from beyond the arc, led by another 2-for-3 half from long distance by Dorsey.
Oregon forced the Bears into driving through its press instead of settling into any kind of half-court offense, and that choked off any clean looks the Bears were able to get from three-point range.
Those 18 turnovers by Cal were all the more problematic given the fact that the Bears had a grand total of six assists on the night, on 26 field goals, and went 13-for-23 at the free throw line.
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In wins against Colorado and Utah to open Pac-12 play – arguably Cal’s best two games of the season – the Bears went 33-for-43 from the charity stripe, had 30 assists on 53 field goals and just 21 combined turnovers , and went 11-for-30 from beyond the three-point arc.
If there was any upside for Cal, it was the performance of freshman Jaylen Brown, who continues to look more and more comfortable in the college game with each passing game. Brown scored a game-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and went 4-of-6 at the free-throw line while only committing one personal foul, adding a block and two steals, though he was responsible for four turnovers.
The Bears next see action on Saturday in Corvallis, Ore., against Oregon State, which downed the Ducks 70-57 when the two in-state rivals met on Jan. 3.