"They've given us a hard time. There's no other way to put it. We're going to have to play better than what we have in the past," Altman said Wednesday.
It's not as if Cal (10-4) has beaten up on the Ducks, Oregon was within 10 points in five of the six losses under Altman, and within four the last three. But the fact remains, the streak looms over Thursday's contest at Matthew Knight Arena.
"I really want this one," said guard Johnathan Loyd.
The Ducks don't make a trip to the Bay Area, so Thursday will likely be their only crack at them this season, and for the senior Loyd, maybe his last ever.
"This could be my last chance. So I know how important this one is to me. I really want this game. I do" Loyd said.
In order for them to seize the moment, the defensive-effort will have to improve drastically to what was displayed in Sunday's loss at Colorado. The Buffaloes secured season-bests in scoring and field goal percentage against the Ducks, seemingly getting whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted on their side of the court.
"That loss really hit home and opened our eyes to that. We can't keep doing that. We've got to play defense," Loyd said.
Atlman has been preaching all season the need for Oregon to buckle down defensively and challenge their opponent, but has yet to see the improvement he'd hoped for.
"Everybody [in the media] laughs when I whine a little bit, but we haven't guarded anybody all year," he said.
While Altman is hopeful that the lone blemish will help to refocus his team, guard Jason Calliste is disappointed that it has come that far.
"We shouldn't have to lose for it to arise that we have to play defense and rebound to be successful. We shouldn't have to take a loss," he said.
A blue chip recruit, Bird started nine of 12 games before the injury and averaged 11 points per contest, while Kreklow started five of 12 and 6 per game.
Without the pair, Cal is down to five players on the roster who have averaged more than 15 minutes per game.
Football player Arik Armstead joined the club Tuesday for his first practice of the season. Standing 6-foot-8, Armstead would seem to bolster the front-court, but Altman was wary of making any claims.
"We've been doing something for three months, he hasn't basketball-wise. So it will be a while before he is even considered for minutes," he said.
Helfrich had previously stated that the two would join the team following the football bowl season.
Altman was unable to comment on two incoming players expected to enroll for classes this term. Based upon various reports, Providence guard Brandon Austin has transferred to the team, and forward Jordan Bell has been expected to enroll this week as well.
Altman cited NCAA rules as the reason for not being able to discuss the two.
Probable Starting Line-ups
PG- Justin Cobbs (6-3, 190 ), 14.4 points per game, 5.9 assists per game.
SG- Tyrone Wallace (6-5, 190) 11.3 points per game, 3.0 assists per game.
SF- Jordan Mathews (6-4, 200) 7.4 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game.
PF- David Kravish (6-9, 221) 11.6 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game.
C- Richard Solomon (6-10, 235) 11.5 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game.
PG- Johnathan Loyd (5-8, 163 ), 8.9 points per game, 6.4 assists per game.
SG- Joseph Young (6-2, 185) 19.1 points per game, 3.4 rebounds per game.
SF- Damyean Dotson (6-5, 209) 11.6 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game.
PF- Mike Moser (6-8, 211 ) 13.9 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game.
C- Richard Amardi (6-8, 224) 7.7 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game.