by Rob Moseley
Photo: Eric Evans
If Dillon Brooks’ 1-of-7 first half wasn’t enough to prove he was having an off night Wednesday, the opening possession of the second half cemented it.
Looking to break a halftime tie with California, Oregon turned to its leading scorer. Brooks got the ball in the low block, and promptly missed what for him on any other night is a gimme.
Brooks would end up finishing the game 2-of-10, his four-point night ending a streak of nine games in double figures. But though Brooks and senior Elgin Cook combined to go just 5-of-22 against the Golden Bears, they also combined for 12 rebounds, and Brooks led the Ducks with four assists in their eventual 68-65 victory.
“If the ball’s not going into the hole, you can’t just quit,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “Every good player has a game where he doesn’t shoot the ball well. …
“You’ve got to be able to contribute in other areas. I did think Elgin and Dillon, they rebounded a little bit better and they did help us defensively.”
As Oregon turns its attention to Sunday’s visit to Matthew Knight Arena by Stanford (7 p.m., ESPNU), Brooks and Cook remain confident they can be reliable scorers. But they also demonstrated, by contributing in other ways against Cal, a level of competitiveness and determination that wasn’t as apparent in games past, in particular last Sunday’s loss at Oregon State.
“Sometimes we’ve got a tendency to, when our shot’s not falling, we lack in other categories,” said Cook, who grabbed just three rebounds while contributing six points in the loss at OSU. “Last game, we didn’t want that to be a reason why we didn’t play out.”
Brooks’ determination to contribute Wednesday was particularly evident during the stretch in which the Ducks took control for good.
After a Dwayne Benjamin three-pointer put Oregon up 49-47, Cal’s Sam Singer tried to match it with a three-pointer of his own. Brooks got a hand on the miss and Benjamin secured the rebound, and Brooks then assisted on a Jordan Bell dunk at the other end.
Following a timeout, Jordan Mathews attempted another three-pointer for the Golden Bears, which Brooks rebounded. The Ducks failed to add on to their 51-47 lead on the next trip, but Brooks again regained possession for Oregon with a steal at the other end.
“Rebounds, boxing out, taking charges, sharing the ball — that’s what we did when the shots weren’t falling,” Brooks said. “And they ended up falling towards the end.”
Indeed, with Oregon clinging to a 55-52 lead, Cook converted a layup for just his second field goal of the night. Cal answered, but the Ducks got a stop on defense that setup a transition bucket for Cook. He was fouled on the play, and made the free throw for a 60-54 lead, matching the Ducks’ largest of the game.
Brooks also made his final field-goal attempt of the game, earlier in the second half.
“Towards the end of the game I started going to the basket more,” said Brooks, whose 15.2 points per game lead the Ducks. “My midrange wasn’t falling. But I know I’ve put the time and effort in, so I know it’s going to fall.”
Brooks said he remains a confident shooter entering Sunday’s meeting with Stanford. The Cardinal is 9-5 overall, and 2-1 in Pac-12 play after winning in Corvallis on Sunday; Stanford’s strength of schedule ranked fifth-toughest in the nation as of Friday.
The Cardinal boasts a balanced attack not unlike Oregon’s, with four starters averaging double figures in points per game. Rosco Allen presents a tough matchup, standing 6-foot-9 and averaging two made three-pointers per game. He scored 21 in Wednesday’s win over the Beavers, and fellow 6-9 forward Michael Humphrey added 15 points with six rebounds and three steals.
As Oregon moves on without injured point guard Dylan Ennis, so to is Stanford thinned by the absence of forward Reid Travis. He’s averaging 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, but has missed the last six with a leg injury.
Stanford presents a stern test for the Ducks, who would benefit from having Cook and Brooks rebound from their low offensive output Wednesday. But if they don’t, they’ve illustrated they can find other ways to contribute.
“When your shot's not falling, you’ve got to bring something else,” Cook said. “Help us win.”