California completed their weekend sweep of the Oregon schools, and stayed unbeaten at home this season in 16 games, by going wire to wire for an 83-71 win over Oregon State.
There were a couple of stats that defined this afternoon's game at Haas Pavilion, and a couple more that built upon them.
First and most important, when Oregon State doesn't get beat on the boards, they win. Doesn't matter who the oppositions is, or where the game is. When they don't, they lose more than 2/3 of the time. Thursday's exceedingly rare Beaver win in Palo Alto was a case of the former, as Oregon State won in large part because they had a +9 advantage on the boards, Today was one of the latter, as the Bears out-boarded the Beavers 39-31.
Secondarily, Oregon State generally needs a big game from Gary Payton II, and a good defensive job on whomever their opponents' best player is in order to win. That didn't happen either, as California's Jabari Bird, likely the Pac-12 Player of the Week, got off to a fast start, getting to double digits by the middle of the first half, and finishing with a game high 23 points, just one shy of his co-career high he hung on Oregon in the Bears' blowout of the Ducks Thursday night.
Meanwhile, GP II didn't score until 13 minutes into the game, and wound up with only 10 points.
"He (Payton) killed us last game," Bird said. "Today, we were really focused on trying to keep him off the glass, and to make sure he made tough shots, not easy layups or dunks. For the most part we did that."
It dug Oregon State into a hole they were never able to climb out of, and set the stage for another of those supporting stats, as California shot twice as many free throws, a product of the Beavers being whistled a dozen times more than the Bears. More than a few fouls were typically dubious Pac-12 officiating events, but some going the other way were too, and it wasn't a determining factor.
Indeed, had the Bears not shot themselves in the paw more often than not until late in the game, it wouldn't have ever been competitive. California shot sub-.500 from the line for most of the game, and Oregon State made a game of it after all. But then the Bears nailed 9 in a row, and 11 of 12 down the stretch from the line to pull out the win in the game that many were looking at as pivotal for both teams in attempting to get off the bubble, and into the NCAA Tournament. That hot streak only buoyed their free throw shooting to 59%. It was still better than the Beavers, who were only 12 of 22 from the line, and missed on a key opportunity to turn the game around.
Cal opened the first double digit lead of the game on Bird's basket that put his point total at 10. But despite massive foul problems that saw both Olaf Schaftenaar and Malcolm Duvivier with 3 first half fouls, and 4 other Beavers, including all 3 of the other starters, with 2 by halftime, Oregon State still fought back within 5 points by the time the under 4 minutes media timeout rolled around, with a pair of 3s by Derrick Bruce a big part of what kept the Beavers competitive.
Bird and Tyronne Wallace sparked an 8-0 Bear run in response though, and took a 41-29 lead to the locker room.
Early in the second half, it looked like Cal would blow it open, as Schaftenaar picked up his 4th foul not 2 minutes in, and Bird buried a 3 to open a 46-31 15 point advantage, which be the largest of the game.
Shortly thereafter, Tres Tinkle, above, got his 3rd foul, and then Drew Eubanks his 3rd & 4th.
But GP II got in a dunk, and Oregon State almost cut the deficit in half, pulling within 8, only to have Bird answer with a personal 7-0 run to re-equal the 15 point largest margin of the game, this with 13 minutes left.
To the Beavers credit, and T. Tinkle, Oregon State fought back on both ends of the floor. Back to back baskets by Tinkle started an 11-0 run that he capped with a 2 +1 chance. Meanwhile, the Bears were held scoreless for nearly 5 minutes before Wallace broke the drought.
Jaylen Brown and Jordan Matthews combined to keep Oregon State at bay for a while, but coming out of the under 4 minute media time out, a pair of Langston Morris-Walker free throws pulled the Beavers within 70-63.
Eubanks fouled out shortly thereafter, and just in the nick of time, California, and especially Wallace, finally remembered how to make free throws, and Oregon State could never get the game under a 3 possession deficit situation the rest of the way.
T. Tinkle, above working past Bird, wound up with 22 points to lead the Beavers, on 8 of 13 shooting, and Stephen Thompson Jr. came off the bench for 10 points, 8 of which came in the final 8 minutes of the game. Bruce added 13, on 3 of 5 shooting from 3 point range, but was the only other person besides Tinkle, Thompson, and GP II in double digits.
Wallace, in his second game back after missing 5 games with a hand injury, was 11 of 18 at the line, and finished with 17 in support of Bird, while Brown added 15, and Matthews 14.
The rebounding problem was reminiscent of the Arizona game, where Oregon State frequently got caught in no-mans' land, halfway between trying to extend their defense and then trying to get back inside, but often being late and out of position.
California coach Cuonzo Martin's offensive strategy caused some of that. "We ran a lot of stuff that we could do regardless of whether they were going with man or zone defense," Martin explained.
"We were just soft defensively," Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle added. "There were some guys that I don't think were ready for what this was going to be. And then we were trying to play catch-up. I know we didn't defend like we're supposed to. They got to the rim way too much."
Oregon State still escaped the Bay Area with a split and comes back to Oregon with a 15-9 record, and a 6-7 Pac-12 mark.
California improved to 17-8, and 7-5 in conference.
The Beavers will visit Matthew Knight Arena next Saturday night, for the second Civil War battle of the season. Between being swept in the bay, and their earlier loss to OSU at Gill, the Ducks, who will still have a share of the conference lead after tomorrow's Arizona-USC game, will be more than looking for a bounce back.
(USA Today photos via SBN)