Bears Fly Ahead Early, Duck Oregon's Rally

Photo: Bak Bak gave Cal valuable contributions off the bench on Saturday afternoon, chipping in with five rebounds and three points in 15 minutes of play against the Ducks at Haas.
Emma Lantos/Photo
Bak Bak gave Cal valuable contributions off the bench on Saturday afternoon, chipping in with five rebounds and three points in 15 minutes of play against the Ducks at Haas.

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When reserve guard Jeff Powers connected from deep, it looked like another rout was on.

Just two days after throttling Oregon State, the Cal basketball team appeared well on its way to a second straight blow-out victory at Haas Pavilion.

Instead, the Bears had to survive an 85-77 dog fight against a gritty Oregon club.

Few thought Cal (11-9, 5-4 in the Pac-10) would have to break a sweat late, as it could do no wrong in the early going. Powers' triple from straight away, the second basket of the freshman's career, gave the Bears a commanding 29-11 advantage with 11:51 remaining.

Markhuri Sanders-Frison poured in a career-high 18 points to pace Cal, including eight in the first eight minutes. While Dana Altman's Ducks waddled out of the gate, the Bears came out shooting 67 percent and hit four of their first five attempts from beyond the arc.

The team's sizzling start would not last, however. At the halftime horn, Cal's 18-point lead had been trimmed to 47-35.

"I can't explain it," Bears' coach Mike Montgomery said. "We really sliced and diced early, we made plays. The thing that scared me was (Oregon's) activity. They play a lot of guys with quick hands.

They're really playing hard, Dana's done a real nice job. They're drinking the Kool-Aid of what he's selling."

With Sanders-Frison's second foul sending him to the bench and Oregon (10-11, 3-6) cranking up its full-court press, Cal got sloppy. The Bears missed seven free throws in the opening 20 minutes, and committed 10 of their 11 first-half turnovers after Sanders-Frison's exit at the 10:41 mark. Allen Crabbe was particularly frustrated - though he chipped in 18 points and seven rebounds, the freshman guard had four of the team's first half giveaways.

"We knew they were a scrappy team," Crabbe said. "We knew that they like to pressure. I know on my part that I didn't know what I was doing in the first half. I kind of took myself out of the game because I kept making mistakes and being hard on myself."

Forward Joevan Catron was a force inside all game long for the Ducks, posting a game-high 22 points and bring down eight rebounds. Oregon also got strong performances from center Tyrone Nared (14 points and 10 rebounds) and junior guard Malcolm Armstead (16 on 7-of-9 shooting).

Nared's 3-pointer brought his squad to within 73-70 with 3:46 left to play, but outside shooting would otherwise be the Ducks' Achilles' heel all afternoon long. Oregon finished just 8-of-26 from beyond the arc, and missed a number of 3-pointers that would have tied the game in the second half.

Meanwhile, Cal made the crucial plays down the stretch to come away with a victory. No one came up bigger than Jorge Gutierrez, who scored 17 points and dished out five assists.

The junior guard drilled a left corner 3-pointer to put the Bears up, 71-65 with 4:48 to go. Gutierrez later clinched the game when he split two defenders, jump-stopped at the free throw line and fed a cutting Crabbe, whose lay-in gave Cal a 77-72 advantage at the 1:29 mark.

"Jorge's play was big for us," Crabbe said. "He knocked down a big three. Jorge is a leader. He's going to do everything that you want him to do. He came through for us big in the end."


Ed Yevelev covers men's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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