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Oregon Hits the Bay Area with Cal Up First

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NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Oregon Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks (14-7, 4-4) begin the second half of conference play on the road against the struggling California Golden Bears (7-15, 1-8) Thursday evening.

In the past seasons, the Bay Area is a daunting challenge for the Oregon Ducks as Cal and Stanford tend to be hostile places. Last year, the Ducks barely escaped as both games went down to the wire and managing to secure wins.

After last weekend’s Civil War victory, coach Dana Altman stressed to have success on the road, consistency on defense will be critical. Oregon sits in the middle of the Pac-12 standings, and a sweep of both Cal and Stanford will keep them in the hunt.

Consistency on defense is not the only area of concern as Coach Altman wants to see his team play with a sense of urgency. Oregon went 6-24 from the field in the second half against Oregon State after building a lead in the first half.

In the first half, the Ducks shot 65 percent from the floor as Elijah Brown and Paul White combined for 29 points. Payton Pritchard leads the Ducks in scoring but only managed to put up seven points in the contest.

With Brown and White finding an offensive rhythm early, Pritchard served as the floor general. He was able to drive down lanes and dish the ball off to his teammates to finish the play. If the Ducks can translate the first half into the entire game, the regular season conference title is a strong possibility.

But for now, the Ducks cannot afford to play down against the Bears who currently are on an eight-game losing streak. Cal’s only conference win came in the opener with a win on the road against Stanford.

For Cal, a rebuild was already in place before the season began. Cuonzo Martin left the program to become head coach at Missouri this season. The Bears lost essential contributors from last season to the NBA Draft and are currently searching for an identity.

Don Coleman and Justice Sueing lead the Bears in scoring this season and Marcus Lee their top rebounder. Defensively, the Bears have a towering presence in the center position with 7-1 senior Kingsley Okoroh. He currently has 44 blocks this season.

Last year at Haas Pavilion, Dillon Brooks hit the game-winning three-pointer to lift the Ducks over the Bears. Cal controlled the game, but Oregon wore down the Bears throughout the second half, enabling Brooks to be the hero.

Cal may be sitting at the bottom of the standings, but Oregon cannot take this game lightly. Coach Altman is aware of how challenging Haas Pavilion can be and needs his team ready for action.

Tip-off begins at 6:00 p.m. PT with a telecast on the Pac-12 Networks.