Before we get to the recap, I'm going to do something I don't do often regarding any sport: Question the coach.
Oregon has been sub-par offensively the entire season both in the final four minutes and in the final minute when they need a shot to tie or take the lead.
Yet without Dominic Artis, the Ducks have become downright abysmal down the stretch. Against Stanford, Cal in Berkeley, Colorado, and Cal again tonight, they may as well have started the possession with 10 seconds on the shot clock. If it happens once, fine, but it's gone way beyond rational at this point.
Time and time again, Altman has timeouts in his pocket and must think he can use them at Subway or at the dry cleaner's.
There's no excuse for a basketball team to be so habitually inept at the end of a game. I don't know if it's in the player's heads, or if it's a scheme issue, but regardless the coaching staff needed to get control of it a long time ago, and must before March.
Onto the recap.
Before the game, the arena was abuzz about the handlebar mustache sported by one Arsalan Kazemi. By halftime, some were questioning whether said mustache gave him Samson-esque strength.
After the game, Kazemi told head coach Dana Altman that his double-double performance had actually let the team down.
"I told the coach I let him down, I didn't play my best," Kazemi said.
"I just have to put in that effort and energy every night."
As has happened often since the 23rd ranked Ducks lost point guard Dominic Artis, they stalled offensively in the final minutes, and California's Justin Cobbs hit a jumper over Jonathan Loyd with less than a second remaining to stun the crowd at Matthew Knight Arena.
Kazemi pulled down 14 of Oregon's 25 first half rebounds and finished the game with 18 to go along with 11 points and four steals. Carlos Emory was Oregon's only other double-digit scorer with 13, with Damyean Dotson next in line with nine.
"Guys played really hard, worked awfully hard, but you gotta hit some shots," Altman said after the game. "I was really disappointed in some of our shot selection there...we were in the double-bonus and didn't take it in the seams like I thought we should."
The story of the first half, besides Kazemi's rebounding, was the abysmal shooting by both teams. The Ducks and Golden Bears both shot under 30% from the floor and combined to go 2/13 from beyond the arc. The Ducks jumped out to an 18-9 advantage keyed by Emory and freshman Damyean Dotson, only to see Cal claw back within three late.
The second half was much of the same for the Ducks, as they simply couldn't string a run together. Oregon shot 26% in the second half, 27.6% for the game, and 2-15 from deep.
The offensive woes were largely at the hands of E.J. Singler and Jonathan Loyd – the two players who have been on the roster for all three of Altman's seasons in Eugene. They combined to go 1-18 from the field, a mark that one won't see next to an Oregon win anytime soon.
"I wouldn't say they did anything special," Singler said of Cal's defense. They played good defense, but we just didn't hit shots tonight collectively. Obviously I didn't hit them."
The Ducks led 43-41 at the under-four-minute media timeout, and took a 44-41 lead after a Kazemi free throw. The Golden Bears tied it up on an and-1 conversion by Robert Thurman and had the ball for the final shot after a frantic Ducks effort led to a wild, one-handed attempt by Dotson.
"We were just running the same play we've been running in the second half, but they were playing zone, so you can't do too much," Singler said.
The Ducks have to rebound quickly from this devastating loss, as a Stanford team that beat them by more than 20 in Palo Alto comes to town Saturday. Even with a game less than 48 hours away, Singler's mind was still lingering on Cal, as he is now 0-11 against them in his career.
"I haven't won against them my whole time at Oregon, so I want them really bad [in the Pac-12 Tournament]," Singler said. "I thought we had it today, but, just a hard way to lose."