BERKELEY -- Oregon loggers have a long history of lamenting the existence of the Northern Spotted Owl, but on Saturday, the Oregon State Beavers -- nature's natural loggers, after all -- took issue with another operose ornithological opponent: California's Jabari Bird.
The Bears junior went 9-of-14 from the field and scored 23 points -- the second game in a row he's surpassed the 20-point mark -- as Cal remained unbeaten at Haas Pavilion, downing the Beavers 83-71.
"I'm trying to do everything I've been trying to do the whole year; I've been putting a lot of work in on my game, and it's finally starting to show," Bird said. "We're trying to make the tournament, and I know I needed to step my game up. Hopefully, I can keep this flowing."
Coming into the last two games, Bird had averaged 8.74 points per game this season.
"The last two games, I have," head coach Cuonzo Martin said, when asked if he noticed Bird being more assertive the last two games, in which he's averaged 23.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. "He got closer to the basket, and if you get a lay-up, great, if not, get a pull-up and knock that down, and get to the free throw line. These last two games are the best I've seen him, having precision and understanding what he wants to do and reading the defense.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1642450-bttv-brown-and-bir...Bird came out firing, hitting his first shot -- a three-pointer -- just as he did on Thursday, and scored 10 of his 13 first-half points in the first 10:30 of game time. In fact, Cal led by as many as 10, before Oregon State came crawling back, and, thanks to a 7-for-15 start at the free throw line for the Bears, and a 1-for-8 start from three-point land, the Beavers got to within four points with five minutes left.
Cal then went on a 14-6 run to end the half, thanks to a pair of three-pointers by Bird and Jordan Mathews, and five points by Kingsley Okoroh, who also had a rebound and a block during a stretch from the 5:20 mark until he exited at 0:31 in the first half. Martin said he wanted to play Okoroh more, but the fact that the Beavers went small halted that ambition.
"When he and Jordan are on the floor together, then guys on either side can make shots. One thing about Jordan: He's always shot-ready. Jabari ahs to be consistently good at being shot-ready. If it's a three-pointer, you've got to take it."
Cal's 44 free throws attempted (and 18 misses) were the most for the Bears this season, and Oregon State's 33 personal fouls were the most by a Cal opponent this season. Previously, the Bears' most free throw attempts were against Stanford last week (38), and the most personal fouls Cal had faced was likewise last week against Stanford (28).
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1601727-jabari-bird-ready-... Oregon State tried several variations of the zone -- the 2-3, the 1-2-2 and the 1-3-1 -- but started the game in man. No matter what defense the Beavers tried, Cal -- save for an 0-for-6 stretch from 13:55 to 8:51 in the second half -- didn't flinch from the field, shooting 47.2% for the game (25-of-53), with a 46.7% mark in the first half and a 47.8 mark in the second.
"To win three straight at home is always good," Martin said. "I'm really happy for Jabari. He puts in so much work and so much time. A tough, rugged kind of game, which we figured it would be. Gary Payton II is all over the floor."
Payton was held to 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting, with five rebounds, far from the pest he was against the Bears the last time the two teams clashed.
Midway through the second half, Bird truly took over, scoring seven straight points, hitting a three and back-to-back one-handed dunks. The first slam came off a lay-up miss by Sam Singer, with Bird putting the ball back in with the one-handed jam. The second came on a steal and court-length outlet pass from Mathews, where Bird once again went one-handed to give him 23 points on the night -- one shy of his career high -- with 13:44 to go.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1642451-bttv-cuonzo-martin...But, after that dunk, the Beavers went on an 11-0 run, with six points by Tres Tinkle, and a lead that was at one point as large as 15 dwindled to just three, thanks to two Payton steals.
A three by Jaylen Brown stopped the bleeding, momentarily, with 7:31 to go, putting the Bears up, 62-56. Another three by Mathews gave Cal a bit more breathing room, but the Beaavers kept fighting, with a lay-up around Ivan Rabb by Malcolm Duvivier cutting the lead back to six.
"We've been more assertive, because the time is now. We want to make the Tournament," Brown said. "We're being intense in practice, we're focused. [Bird] is the first person to finish the sprints in practice, he's vocal, he's a leader, he's putting the work in, and now, he's just putting it on the court."
After going 10-for-20 at the free throw line in the first half, Cal slowly found its bearings at the charity stripe, hitting 11 of its final 12 free throws down the stretch. Before that run, the Bears went 15-for-32.
"That goes with focus," Bird said. "It's paying attention to detail. We haven't done that so far on the road this year, but if we take this past week of basketball, put it on the road and take it with us, we'll be fine."
Momentum didn't return to the home bench until freshman Oregon State guard Derrick Bruce coughed up a turnover to Mathews on the right wing. The junior three-point specialist ran the break with Brown, delivering a crisp, cross-court bounce pass to the freshman phenom, who finished with a right-handed jam, getting the lead back up to nine, with 3:43 to go.
By the time Brown let loose with another thunderous tomahawk, with 40.3 seconds left, Cal held an 11-point lead once again, with Bird standing, mouth agape, holding his hands to his face in wonder at Brown's exclamation point -- one rivaling Bird's own from Thursday's 20-point win over then-No. 11 Oregon.
"They were pressing, and they left me open in the back court, Jabari made a great read, and I just finished," Brown said.
"That was probably the best dunk I think I've seen in person," Bird said.. It was a great way to end the game."
"I played with Glenn Robinson, so I've seen some amazing dunks," Martin said. "It's impressive. It is. He does it in traffic. And, don't get me wrong, it's impressive, but I've played with guys who can throw them down."
Brown finished with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting, and 4-of-7 at the free throw line, despite being in foul trouble. In fact, three Bears finished with four fouls -- Brown, Kameron Rooks (2 rebounds, 4 points, 7 minutes) and Singer (team-high four assists).
In his second game back, senior Tyrone Wallace came off the bench to score 17 points, going 3-of-9 from the floor and 11-of-18 from the free throw line. He played 29 minutes, while Singer -- who started his seventh straight game -- played 31.
Mathews finished with 14 points, going 3-of-7 from the field, 2-of-5 from three and 6-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Bird added seven rebounds, while Rabb and Brown paced the Bears with eight apiece, and while Brown did have three assists, a steal and a block, he turned the ball over four times.
The Bears out-rebounded Oregon State 40-30, grabbing 12 offensive rebounds, led by three each from Brown and Wallace.
“It’s Berkeley, it’s something about Berkeley," Brown said of the Haas Pavilion crowd of 10,906 -- the third straight game the Bears have played in front of over 10,600. "The fans, we feed off of the energy. They come out and show love every time we have a home game. They’re excited and ready to see some good basketball, and we just try to give them a good game. We have the best fans in America.”
"They come out and support, they get loud when we make plays, having that support every night, we feed off of it," Bird said.
Cal is now 16-0 at home, and 1-8 away from Haas Pavilion.