Cal looks to spoil No. 13 Oregon’s Pac-12 title chase

NCAA Men's Basketball
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The final week of Pac-12 regular season play is here, and the Oregon Ducks are in position to grab at least a share of the regular-season conference title.

No. 13 Oregon (22-7, 11-5 Pac-12) is the conference’s only team in the Top 25. With a sweep of California — Oregon’s Thursday opponent — and Stanford on Saturday, the Ducks would capture at least a share of the conference title. A UCLA loss at Southern California and a sweep by Oregon would give the Ducks the title outright.

Both of the Ducks’ remaining games are at home in Eugene, Ore., where they are 15-0 this season. Going back to last season, the Ducks are 20-0 at home. If they win the Pac-12, Oregon would be the first school in conference history to capture championships in men’s basketball, women’s basketball and football in the same academic year.

Oregon edged California 77-72 in Berkeley on Jan. 30. Leading scorer and floor leader Payton Pritchard scored 21 points and handed out eight assists in that game, but Chris Duarte, who added 19 points, recently had hand surgery, and he seems likely to miss at least this week’s games.

“No doubt first-team All-American and national Player of the Year, should get it, and he’s got two more games of unfinished business,” assistant coach Mike Mennenga said of Pritchard on the school’s weekly basketball podcast. “It’s a special week. We need to go out there and take this championship and enjoy it.”

Three-point shooting has been key for the Ducks this season. They lead the conference in 3-point field-goal rate at 38.4 percent. The Ducks have three of the top six 3-point shooters in the league in Will Richardson (first, 47.4 percent), Anthony Mathis (second, 42.9 percent) and Pritchard (sixth, 40 percent). Oregon also leads the Pac-12 in 3-pointers made per game at 8.5.

The Golden Bears (13-16, 7-9) are suddenly a team not to be overlooked. Cal has won three of four on the heels of a four-game losing streak, and one of the three victories was a 76-62 decision over then-No. 21 Colorado at home on Feb. 27.

Guard Matt Bradley matched a career high with 26 points that night and is averaging 18.2 per game in conference play to lead the Golden Bears. With a win at Oregon on Thursday or at Oregon State on Saturday, Cal would clinch the No. 8 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, which opens March 11 in Las Vegas.

A victory over the Ducks would be Cal’s first triumph in Eugene since Jan. 9, 2014. That day, an unranked Golden Bears squad handed the 13th-ranked Ducks a 96-83 loss.

“During the offseason and parts of the preseason, I got sick of everyone telling us how bad we were going to be, because I didn’t think we would be,” coach Mark Fox told the school’s athletics website. “I just wasn’t going to accept that, and I wasn’t going to let our team accept that either.

“We’re not anywhere near close to where we want to be. But, I think the perception and feelings about our team and this program are drastically different from what I heard all summer.”

–Field Level Media

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