Down six with 9:06 left Thursday night at Stanford, Oregon’s hopes of securing a first-round bye for the Pac-12 tournament appeared to be in some jeopardy.
Then Chris Duarte took over with nine straight points at one stage (including five to jump-start the comeback), followed by a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:55 left that put the Ducks ahead to stay in a 71-68 victory.
As a result, the Ducks can now clinch that cherished first-round bye for the conference tournament with a win on Saturday at last-place California.
“Guys found a way,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We hit just enough shots and made just enough stops.”
At 15-5 overall and 10-4 in the conference, Oregon seems to be in good shape for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, should it not win the Pac-12 tourney. The regular-season title remains in play for the Ducks, although they’ll have to pass UCLA and USC in the last nine days.
Oregon has four games remaining, and the trip to Berkeley is the easiest of them on paper. The Ducks host Arizona on Monday and UCLA on Wednesday (in a game postponed three times) and visits Oregon State, which thumped them 75-64 on Jan. 23, on March 7.
Duarte, who finished with 24 points at Stanford, is the team’s leading scorer at 17.2 points per game. Eugene Omoruyi (16.6 ppg), Eric Williams Jr. (11.1) and St. John’s transfer LJ Figueroa (11) also average in double figures.
Meanwhile, the Golden Bears (8-18, 3-16) will try to close their regular season on a high note. Given their recent performance, that might be difficult. Thursday night’s come-from-ahead 59-57 home loss to Oregon State was their third straight and 10th in 11 games.
Cal actually established a 14-2 lead less than five minutes into the game and led 33-28 at the half, but coughed up the first nine points of the second half and never reclaimed the lead. The Golden Bears missed on two chances to tie or take the lead in the last minute, committing turnovers on both possessions.
Matt Bradley pumped in 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting to lead Cal, but also coughed up the ball as he tried to maneuver for a final shot for a game-ending turnover. Bradley is averaging a team-best 18.7 points this season.
The Ducks won the teams’ first meeting 82-69 on New Year’s Eve in Eugene, getting 26 points, six rebounds and five steals from Omoruyi.
–Field Level Media