Final Score: Oregon St. 92 California 85
Oregon St. out-shot California to claim their first Pac-12 victory of the season Thursday night. The Golden Bears shot better than 57% for the game, and still lost, despite shooting above 62% in the second half. The reason was the best shooting night of the season by the Beavers, who shot better than 63% for the game, and a blistering 76+% after the break.
And the high percentage of made shots wasn't because it was a dunk fest, though both teams had a few of those. California canned a respectable 6 of 14 three pointers, 43%, only to see Oregon St. drill 11 of 18 from beyond the arc, including 6 of 7 in the decisive second half.
The duel of the guards didn't disappoint, as the Golden Bears' Jorge Gutierrez hit 10 of 19 shots, for a game high 26 points.
"Jorge, he's a great player, and he played pretty good," Oregon St.'s Ahmad Starks said. "But our guards did too."
Starks sank 5 of 8 three pointers, the last of which came with less than 2 minutes left, and reopened a 10 point, 86-76 lead. It was the first double digit lead Oregon St. opened after having twice built 16 points leads with around 7 minutes left, only to see Gutierrez, Justin Cobbs, ans Allen Crabbe combine for a 14-2 run that pulled the Bears back within 77-73 in a matter of only 2 minutes.
Starks finished with a career high 24 points, which matched Jared Cunningham, who also had 24 for the Beavers.
Cobb kicked in 18 points, but Crabbe was contained to 16, as Oregon St. used a mixture of defensive tactics that disrupted California's ability to get Crabbe more than a few open looks.
California's Jorge Gutierrez scores 2 of his game high 26 points despite the defensive
efforts of Oregon St.'s Joe Burton and Jared Cunningham.
Oregon St. coach Craig Robinson changed up the starting lineup for the first time all season, inserting 6'9" Eric Moreland in place of Devon Collier. Moreland played 27 minutes, and his 7'2" wingspan and shot blocking ability was a factor in stopping several California runs.
"These guys really don't care who starts," Robinson explained, "and the only stat they care about is that final score up there on the scoreboard. Eric and Devon can play a certain number of minutes each, so I thought I'd move when those minutes were around a little. Eric's reach, and especially his ability to play up top in the 1-3-1 zone, kept them from getting Crabbe going like he sometimes does."
California scored the game's first 5 points, but any worries the Oregon St. fans that only slightly more than half-filled Gill Coliseum (5,162 turned out to see the game that deserved to be televised, but wasn't) might have had about the Beavers getting off to another slow start such as the ones that dug them into deep deficits they couldn't completely overcome in both of their losses last weekend in Washington were quickly dispelled.
A dose of 1-3-1 zone defense and a steal by Moreland, above, started a 13-0 Oregon St. run that forced Bears coach Mike Montgomery to take an early timeout, which would become a factor down the stretch, and ensured that the Beavers would never be far from the lead.
"That was the first time anybody saw the 1-3-1 very much this season," Starks explained. "I don't think they expected it."
The Bears rallied, and an 8-0 run put them back ahead 6 and a half minutes before half time, and a layup by Cobbs pushed California ahead 32-28.
Roberto Nelson's 3 pointer and a Starks basket erased that advantage, and the back and forth battle was tied 38-38 at the half.
California's ability to beat Oregon St. to the blocks in the first half translated into a sizable advantage at the free throw line, as the Bears were 10 of 12 from the line, vs. the Beavers going only 3 of 5.
That would turn around in the second half, however. Cunningham sank 2 free throws 11 seconds into the second half, and Oregon St never trailed again. One of the keys to that was free throwing, as the Beavers hit 16 of 20 free throws after the break.
Jared Cunningham exploded past the California defense for 18 of his 24 points
in the second half.
Oregon St. opened as large as the 16 point lead, before California rallied, but Crabbe's 3 pointer that pulled the Bears within 77-73 with 5 minutes to go was as close as they would get.
The Beavers answered with a 9-3 run, and opened an 11 point lead when Cunningham connected on a free throw, after Harper Kamp fouled him, and fouled out as a result, with 1:12 left to go.
Cunnigham's layup with 30 seconds left opened another 11 point lead, and finally put the gritty Bears away.
Foul trouble was an understory to the game, as Kamp picked up his second foul with over 6 minutes left in the first half, and sat down until after halftime.
Cunningham picked up his third foul seconds after putting the Beavers ahead for good, but continued to play until the 11:46 mark before taking a break, or picking up another foul.
Kamp had to sit for a segment of the second half, and at the same time that Gutierrez did, and Oregon St. extended their lead during the stretch. The Beavers also built their lead with Cunningham on the bench for a brief stretch.
In addition to Kamp fouling out, with just over a minute left, and the Cardinal down by 10 points, Cunningham, Gutierrez, Beavers' Center Joe Burton, and Cobbs all finished with 4 fouls.
Oregon St. was in the bonus in the second half from the 12:23 mark on, and entered the double bonus with 7:10 still to go.
The Bears got a few impressive minutes from Richard Soloman, but the Beavers handily won the battle of the big men, though only in the later going, after California had held the advantage early. Robinson's mixing in of some 2-3 zone defense along with the man to man made penetration more problematic for California, and Cunningham's explosive first step, which allowed him to blow by Gutierrez on several isolation plays was a defensive challenge when Oregon St. was on offense.
"We really seemed to bother them with our wing play in the 1-3-1," Robinson said, "so we played it a little bit more than we had planned to. We also played some two-three (zone), and played that more than we have had. We just tried to mix it up and keep them on their heels."
Kamp was held to 7 points and 5 rebounds, and David Kravish contributed 10 points to the Bears' effort.
But Burton and Angus Brandt combined for 27 points. Burton made 5 of 7 shots, and finished with 13 points, to go with 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Brandt, above, was a Bear killer, connecting on 5 of 8 shots, including all 3 of the 3 pointers he put up, for a total of 14 points.
"We've been working on our shooting all week and taking it seriously," Brandt said. "It paid off tonight."
The edge Oregon St. ultimately held in the front court, especially controlling Kamp, was a major factor in the win.
Oregon St. (11-4, 1-2) will conclude their home stand Saturday night, with a 7:05 start time for a visit from Stanford (12-3, 2-1). The Cardinal fell to the Ducks 78-67 tonight in Eugene.
California (12-4, 2-1) visits Oregon (11-4, 2-1) Saturday.
Colorado (10-4, 2-0) took over sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, with an 87-69 win over Washington (8-6, 2-1) tonight in Boulder. Washington St. (9-6, 1-2) dropped a 62-60 overtime decision to Utah (4-10, 1-1) in Salt Lake City, further tightening up the Conference race.
UCLA (8-7, 1-2) got their first conference win, a 65-58 upset of visiting Arizona (10-5, 1-1). Only USC (5-11, 0-3) remains winless in Pac-12 play, after losing 62-53 to Arizona St. (5-9, 1-1).
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)