The Collapse Continues

Oregon almost did enough to win this game. Almost. The Ducks came back from a nine point second half deficit to force overtime against Cal, but they couldn't get it done in the extra period and fell to the Bears 85-81. It was Oregon's fourth loss in their last five games.

After falling to both Arizona and Arizona State at home last weekend, Oregon (12-10, 7-8) went on possibly the toughest road trip in the Pac-10 and opened with the California Golden Bears. Having not won at Stanford in over ten years, the Cal game was the game everyone looked at as the possible Duck win.

Oregon did just what it didn't want to do and gave Cal (12-12, 8-7) tremendous momentum going into halftime. The Bears controlled the Ducks and led 44-36 at the intermission.

"Defensively we were terrible in the first half and didn't play with a sense of urgency," Oregon Coach Ernie Kent told OSN.

The second half didn't look much better until Andre Joseph and Aaron Brooks started to take the game over for the Ducks. With Oregon behind by seven, four straight Joseph free throws cut Cal lead to four with just over four minutes left. Cal pushed it back out to a nine point game until Brooks, who finished with a career high 16 points, hit two triples and Joseph drilled one from downtown to tie the game at 74 with just over a minute to go.

A pair of Brooks free throws put Oregon up two at 76-74 with 36 seconds left. Oregon's first lead since the previous half only lasted 20 seconds though as Marquise Kately drilled a long jumper to tie the game with 16 seconds left. The Ducks put the ball in Brooks' hands but he was unable to get a shot off as the second half expired.

Overtime started with Joseph drilling another long range bomb on his way to 16 points. Oregon led by three, but that was their only field goal in OT. After that Joseph three ball, neither he nor Brooks saw much of the rock. It was in Luke Jackson's hands play after play and he uncharacteristically failed to put the ball in the hole.

"Guys have got to understand that you've got to make smarter decisions at crunch time," Kent said. "Trust your teammates. Aaron and Andre hit some big shots in this game to put us right back there. They can continue to hit those shots even in overtime if we can get the ball to them."

Jackson did finish with 18 points and eight boards on the night.

Cal's star power resided in guard Richard Midgley and freshman phenom Leon Powe. Midgley finished with 22 points and Powe had 20 points and 11 boards. The tandem took the game over at times and did what it took for their team to win.

"Powe was just a man tonight," Kent told OSN. "He bullied right through our double teams and scored."

Oregon had the game in their grasp and was unable to hold on. It comes down to defense for this squad to win, and defense has been lacking in the last few games.

"It's another game that got away from us which is kind of the story of the season," Kent told OSN.

The Ducks can't let any more games slip away if they want to garner solid positioning in the Pac-10 Tournament. Each game is important for the Ducks in order to get a high enough ranking so they do not have to play Arizona or Stanford right away. If the tournament started today, Oregon's number five spot would face them off against Cal in the first round.

Oregon's road doesn't get any easier as they head to Stanford on Saturday. The top ranked Cardinal are one of two undefeated squads left in the country, the other being St. Joseph's. A win against Stanford might give Oregon the momentum needed to make a run in the Pac-10 Tournament. Then again, Oregon hasn't won at Maples Pavilion since 1986.

Oregon and Stanford will tip-off on Saturday at 4:00 on ABC.

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