by Rob Moseley
A trio of troubling trends continued Thursday at Matthew Knight Arena.
The No. 17 Oregon men's basketball team lost 96-83 to California, the Ducks' 12th straight loss to the Golden Bears and 15th in a row to Cal coach Mike Montgomery. Because of the Pac-12's schedule rotation, Oregon won't have to worry about those streaks the rest of this season, unless the two meet in the conference tournament — but that doesn't mean the Ducks don't have pressing concerns.
Another trend that continued Thursday was spotty UO defense. After starting this season 13-0, and not allowing any one opponent to shoot better than .472, Oregon has lost back-to-back games in which Colorado shot .564 and Cal shot .525.
"We've got to do some soul-searching," UO coach Dana Altman said. "We've got a lot of work to do. Defensively, we're not very good. There's no other way to put it."
All season, Altman has been sounding the alarm about Oregon on the defensive end. The Ducks struggled there in some of their closest games — to Georgetown, Ole Miss, BYU — but that was also among their best nonconference competition.
And Oregon compensated with the nation's highest-scoring offense, depending on which day of the week stats were calculated the last couple months. Sunday at Colorado, however, and again Thursday against California, the defensive red flag that could be overlooked in the preseason was waving too prominently to ignore.
"That hasn't just creeped up the last two games," Altman said. "This is something we've got to address. …
"I think Colorado got our attention; the guys practiced hard the last couple days. We just didn't get it done."
At halftime Thursday, what had developed was a typically even battle between the Ducks and Golden Bears. Cal led 46-42, on .516 shooting, but Oregon hit at a .556 clip to stay in contention.
The second half was another story. Cal continued to make better than half its attempts, while the Ducks connected at a rate of .297. That included 1-of-12 three-point shooting.
"We just didn't execute defensively," Altman said. "It got to us, and we missed some shots."
Cal freshman Jordan Mathews was a poster child for the Ducks' defensive struggles.
Averaging 7.4 points entering the night, Mathews exploded for 32 on 10-of-14 shooting, most of them jumpers. Oregon's efforts to deal with Cal forwards Richard Solomon and David Kravish resulted in the Ducks being slow to get out on shooters, most notably Mathews.
"Letting guys score so much on us, it's going to be tough to win games that way," UO senior Mike Moser said.
Moser was asked to play out of position at times, down in the post against Solomon. He answered the bell with 10 rebounds but struggled to find open looks, shooting 6-of-18.
Aside from Moser, the Ducks got just 28 minutes from players taller than 6-foot-6.
"I'm more of a face-up four man at this point, so it's tough," Moser said. "But I think I'm adjusting the best I can."
As was the case against Colorado, Oregon was strongest defensively just out of halftime Thursday. Cal scored just three points in the first few minutes, and the Ducks took their biggest lead, at 52-49.
A pretty putback by Joseph Young had Oregon within two at 76-74 with 5:14 left. But Cal scored on seven of its next eight possession, and suddenly a two-point lead was 12, at 91-79.
"This was a big ballgame for us, there's no other way to put it," Altman said. "We were at home and we needed to play better."
The Ducks return to the court Sunday against Stanford, knowing they need to demonstrate a sense of urgency on the defensive end.
"It's at an all-time high," Moser said. "This loss makes that Stanford game a lot, lot, lot bigger."
NOTES: Oregon lost for the first time this season at Matthew Knight Arena, falling to 9-1 at home. … The Ducks finished with four players in double-figure scoring — Young (29), Moser (15), Johnathan Loyd (14) and Damyean Dotson (10). … Oregon has scored 80-plus points in 12-of-15 games this season. … The Ducks finished 26-of-29 (.897) from the free-throw line, their best percentage of the season. … Young scored a team-high 29 points, his second-best scoring output this season. A career-high 16 came from the line. … Loyd scored 14 points, his second-highest tally of the season, and assisted on four baskets. ... Moser posted his third double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.