EUGENE, Ore.- Effort can only carry a team so far. At a certain point teams need to make baskets, that was Dana Altman’s message during his press conference Thursday’s loss to California. It certainly held true as his Oregon (21-6, 10-4) Duck squad lost a tight one at Matthew Knight Arena, 48-46 to California (17-9, 9-5).
The Ducks fought, scratched and clawed with the Bears, but Justin Cobbs’ jumper proved too sharp a weapon for the Duck to defend. Cobbs elevated and hit a long two-point jump shot as the clock expired to best Oregon.
“It hurts. Just the way our whole team played. I thought we played really hard. That’s just a tough way to lose,” said forward E.J. Singler.
Oregon held a 46-43 lead with 2:16 remaining after Carlos Emory finished a driving lay-up. Emory and teammate Arsalan Kazemi collided as the pair attempted to run down court and landed in a heap. The collision gave the Golden Bears a 5-3 advantage and center Robert Thurman finished a short basket and made a free throw to tie the game.
“Carlos ran into me and we kind of went knee-to-knee,” said Kazemi, who finished with 11 points, 18 rebounds and four steals. “I couldn’t basically walk up, but I know that they’re running to the other side so I just tried to get there, but it was too late. I’m just really disappointed that I couldn’t do anything about it.”
The basket was the second transition hoop the Bears converted in the final five minutes and California outscored Oregon 10-4 in transition for the game.
“I think we’re one of the best defensive teams in the league and I thought we played really well tonight,” Singler said. “Just down the stretch we let them get two easy transition points [baskets] and those two hurt us.”
While those transition baskets gave California the points to stay in the game and eventually win it, it was Oregon not scoring points that stopped the Ducks from pulling away.
The Ducks shot a putrid 27.6 percent from the field, making just seven second half field goals. Oregon-leading scorers E.J. Singler and Damyean Dotson shot a combined 5-for-24, and just 1-for-11 from distance.
The poor shooting numbers, particularly the perimeter attempts, were affected in part by bad shot selections, Altman said.
“A couple of them were questionable shots, but that’s what happens when you’re not shooting it well. Everybody’s kind of like ‘is this a good one? Is this not a good one?’ We just didn’t have a lot of flow to it,” he said.
The Ducks shooting woes started right out of the gate, as Oregon missed their first seven field goals, falling behind California 6-0. The Ducks followed the poor start with a 22-5 run over the next five minutes. During that stretch Oregon got the ball inside and converted easy buckets.
Kazemi’s 18 rebounds were one short of a career-high he set against Tulane his sophomore year while playing at Rice. Fourteen of those came in the first half. In the Ducks loss to California earlier this month, the 6-foot-7 forward, played one of his poorest games of the season.
“Last game against California I told the coach I let him down. I didn’t play my best. I came today all-in. It really hurts right now sitting here and not winning this game,” Kazemi said.
Perhaps adding insult to injury, the Ducks loss was the eleventh consecutive to California. With their last win coming during the 2008-2009 season, no player on the current roster has beaten the Bears.
“I haven’t won against them my whole time at Oregon. I want them really bad [in the conference tournament]. I thought we had it today, but it’s just a hard way to lose,” Singler said.
The loss brings the Ducks and Arizona Wildcats even in the Pac-12 standings, with UCLA’s game versus USC Saturday determining the Bruins standing.
As is often the case after a crushing loss, Oregon will have to avoid a post-loss hangover against Stanford Saturday. In their last meeting, the Cardinal handed the Ducks their worst loss of the season, a 76-52 blowout at Maples Pavilion.
“We’ve got to brush this loss off, get back to work tomorrow and focus on Stanford. That’s all you can do,” Singler said.