To anyone eager to proclaim Oregon the clear-cut best team in the Pac-12, you’ve gotta pump the brakes on that for now. For only a few days, at least.
What happened Thursday night at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, California, was, at the same time, the best performance all season for one team and the worst for the other. Cal destroyed the 11th-ranked Ducks, winning 83-63 and taking a must-win game for coach Cuonzo Martin.
The Golden Bears went crazy from 3, hitting six of their first seven attempts from deep and getting out to an 18-6 lead. The game was never close. By the end, it felt like a 35-point margin, not 20. Oregon was done in by 25 second-chance points from Cal. It was a beatdown inside and out. Jabari Bird had a game-high 24 for Cal, while Dillon Brooks (17 points) was really the only reliable player for Dana Altman’s crew Thursday night.
It was also the return of Ty Wallace, Cal’s combo point guard/forward who came off the bench to play 28 minutes and contribute 10 points, eight boards and four assists. His return certainly provided an extra spark.
Cal’s an interesting team, something of a bipolar group because it’s automatic at home (now 15-0 this season) but entirely unreliable outside of Haas (1-8). Thursday night’s Ducks decimation should be impressive enough to keep Cal projected into the field of 68 as of Friday morning. It’s not just this win; Cal has now earned three victories against ranked teams.
First it was Utah, then Arizona, now Oregon.
The flip side is Cal’s inability to win a road game against a conference foe. We’re still waiting on that one. The Golden Bears sit at 16-8 overall and 6-5 in the league. Oregon was dropped to 20-5 and 9-3 in the Pac-12. It is now tied in the loss column with 7-3 Southern Cal.
Seven teams are within two games of first place in the Pac-12 which, if you’ve been following along here at CBSSports.com all season, you know is beautifully weird. The conference is a microcosm of college hoops. It doesn’t make a lot of sense this season, but you’ve just gotta roll with it and enjoy the random chaos.
Next up for Martin’s group is a home game against Oregon State. A win there is also pivotal, as Cal’s not in a position whatsoever to lose games to unranked teams. Oregon will try to get right against Stanford on Saturday.