California rips through No. 17 Ducks' flimsy defense for 96-83 win

California rips through No. 17 Ducks' flimsy defense for 96-83 win
January 9, 2014, 11:30 pm
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Moser and Young: Urgency at all time high

Oregon Ducks guard Joseph Young (3) defends against California Golden Bears guard Jordan Mathews (15) at Matthew Knight Arena.

(Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)

EUGENE – Oregon’s lack of defense has gone from an awe-shucks problem masked by an expressway offense and clutch victories to an alarming issue that could very well hold back these Ducks.

No. 17 Oregon lost 96-83 to California on Thursday night in front of 8,415 at Matthew Knight Arena as a follow up to a 100-91 loss at Colorado on Sunday.

UO players talked a good game on Wednesday about improving on defense and learning from the loss at the Buffaloes but showed no signs of improvement against Cal, which has now won 12 consecutive games against the Ducks.

“We’ve got to do some soul searching,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. Defensively we’re not very good. There’s no other way to put it.”

The Golden Bears, who entered the game ranked 11th in the conference in points per contests (74.2), shot 51.6 percent from the field as UO allowed guards Jordan Mathews and Justin Cobbs to run amok.

Mathews, a freshman, poured in a game-high 32 points on 10-of-14 shooting while Cobbs had 20 points and 11 assists.

Guard Joseph Young led Oregon (13-2, 1-2 Pac-12) with 29 points. Forward Mike Moser had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Oregon’s problems on defense might not have mattered much once again had the Ducks' offense not fallen to pieces in the second half. Normally as reliable as Northwest rain, the Ducks shot just 29.7 percent in the second half after shooting 55.6 in the first half.

Oregon led 60-59 with 11:56 remaining and then made just six baskets the rest of the way as Cal (11-4, 2-0) began to slowly pull away with Mathews and Cobbs delivering clutch plays.

Mathews, who entered the game averaging 7.6 points per game, was not someone Oregon had expected to do much damage.

“He really wasn’t a big key to our scouting report,” Moser said.

Cal forward Richard Solomon probably was a point of emphasis for the Ducks' defense but he still had 16 points and nine rebounds. His dunk off of a Cobbs’ feed at the 2:53 mark gave Cal an 87-77 lead and that was just about it for the Ducks.

Moser said UO tried to double the post to keep the ball out of the hands of Cal’s big men but then failed to rotate well enough to make the strategy work.

“Letting guys score on us so much it’s going to be tough to win games,” Moser said.

Altman said the team practiced well in response to the Colorado loss but again looked lost on defense.

“It just looked like our guys didn’t know what they wanted to do,” he said.

Fundamental mistakes led to defenders being behind on plays all night, Altman said.

To find a solution, Altman said he might tinker with rotations in an attempt to find a better formula for success on defense.

“This is not going to be an easy problem to work through,” Altman said. “We have a lot of disjointed parts out there.”

Oregon hosts Stanford at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Cardinal (9-5, 0-2) lost 81-72 at Oregon State on Thursday night.