by Rob Moseley
With Oregon needing to bounce back from its first loss, the schedule isn't doing the Ducks any favors.
The UO men's basketball team (13-1) returns home Thursday to host California in Matthew Knight Arena (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1). The Ducks are looking to rebound from the their first defeat, Sunday at Colorado, and will try to do so against a team fourth-year UO coach Dana Altman has never beaten.
The Golden Bears (10-4) won 48-46 in Eugene last season on a last-second jumper by Justin Cobbs. That gave California 11 straight victories over Oregon.
"They've been really close games, down to the wire, and we've come up on the wrong end," Altman said. "We've got to try to turn that around."
The Ducks took Monday off and then returned to practice Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare to face the Golden Bears. Altman will rely on his team of veterans to quickly recover from blowing a 10-point halftime lead Sunday, and allowing the Buffaloes to shoot 56.4 percent.
Cal, meanwhile, opened conference play with a win at Stanford last week, and will have had six days off by the time Thursday's game tips off.
"They'll have a full week, so we'll see a team that's very well-prepared," Altman said. "You give Mike (Montgomery, Cal's coach) a full week, he's going to have them ready to go. So we're going to have to be really sharp."
The primary challenge for Oregon figures to be Cobbs, who hit the game-winner at Matt Arena last season. One of four returning starters for the Golden Bears this season, Cobbs leads them with 14.4 points per game, and 5.9 assists.
"He's definitely the leader of that group," Altman said. "He's the guy that makes them go."
Cobbs, however, will find this a decidedly different matchup than either of his games against Oregon a year ago.
UO sophomore point guard Dominic Artis missed nine games due to injury in conference play last season. That stretch began the week before the Ducks and Golden Bears played at Cal, and it ended the week after their rematch in Eugene. Thus, he'll face Cobbs and Cal for the first time Thursday.
Artis is coming off his best weekend yet this season, the start of which was delayed by suspension. He scored 12 points in an overtime win at Utah, and added eight points with seven assists in the loss to Colorado.
Of course, defense will be just as key as scoring and playmaking for Artis against Cobbs.
"He's got a lot of work to do (defensively); our whole team does," Altman said. "That's something that's consistent for all of them. Defensively, we've got to get better."
Artis' emergence at Utah and Colorado coincided with Damyean Dotson's game-winning layup against the Utes, and some strong defensive moments for Ben Carter against the Buffs. Oregon's newcomers, like Joseph Young and Mike Moser, had a huge impact on the team's 13-0 start, and it looks like the returning veterans are asserting themselves now, too.
"There's no doubt, they're more comfortable," Altman said. "We're still a work in progress. We're trying to mix and match and figure out what works best, and I'm not sure it'll be an easy proposition to figure out."