No. 21 Oregon, California get back to business

NCAA Men's Basketball

An already strange season took another unexpected turn for Oregon’s basketball team.

The Ducks were scheduled to play their Pacific-12 Conference home opener against UCLA last week, but the game was postponed because a testing problems for the coronavirus — not by anyone involved on either team, but because of problems regarding tests for game officials.

So instead, the No. 21 Ducks (6-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) will play their first conference home game of the season on New Year’s Eve, when they host California (5-4, 0-2) in Eugene.

“We’re just gonna have to fight through, make the best of the situation, just like football did,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman, referring to the Pac-12 champion gridiron Ducks who reached the conference title game when Washington had to bow out due to a COVID-19 spike. “It’s just going to be one of those years.”

Instead of keeping his players in a bubble, Altman gave them the option to return home for the holidays. He said most did.

“I just thought this year, with the pressure they’re under, I thought it was important that if they wanted to go home, they go home,” Altman said. “And their families felt that, and we’re in this together. So it was an easy decision. …

“I told them one more time, I’m counting on you to make good decisions. They’ve done a good job so far, so I hope they continue that.”

The postponement came after Oregon lost starting center N’Faly Dante for the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in a 74-64 victory against San Francisco on Dec. 17.

“I thought he was really starting to come along, and then this happens,” Altman said of the 6-foot-11 sophomore from Mali, who was averaging 8.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. “He’s a wonderful young man; I love being around him. One of the most pleasant guys we have. I feel terrible for him.”

The Ducks have won six consecutive games since an 83-75 season-opening loss to Missouri in Omaha, Neb., on Dec. 2.

In their lone conference game, they took a 74-71 decision on the road at Washington on Dec. 12. Chris Duarte and Eugene Omoruyi led a balanced attack with 14 points apiece.

Cal is riding a three-game winning streak. The Golden Bears defeated Seattle 70-65 in their most recent game Dec. 22 as Ryan Betley scored 17 points to help them rally from a halftime deficit.

Guard Matt Bradley, who leads the Pac-12 with 19.1 points per game, is expected to return Thursday for the Golden Bears after missing the past two games with an ankle injury. Forward Grant Anticevich, who is third on the team in scoring (10.3 ppg), is out indefinitely following an appendectomy.

Unlike the Ducks, local virus restrictions prevented the Golden Bears from going home for the holidays. The team couldn’t even get together for a holiday meal.

“The daily life of a player right now is no fun,” Cal coach Mark Fox said. “They’ve got to get up in the morning and stick a thing down their nose at 8:45 and sit around and wait for the results until we can even have a shootaround. It’s a very isolated and difficult existence. …

“The fun is we still get to play the game that we love, represent the school we care deeply about. But the sacrifices they make to do that are immense.”

–Field Level Media

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