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Jan 12, 2024 7:38 pm

Confident Cal seeks to hand Oregon first league loss this season

Oregon aims to continue an undefeated start to Pac-12 Conference play on Saturday night when it hosts California in Eugene, Ore.

The Ducks (12-3, 4-0 Pac-12) have won their first four conference games for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Oregon has won eight of its last nine games overall, doing so without big man depth. It is relying on scoring bursts as well as guards and wing players defending well as a team to find success.

The Ducks haven’t played since the 89-84 win at Washington State last Saturday, when Oregon sank 14 3-pointers and made 58.2 percent of its shots from the floor. The Cougars trimmed a 12-point second-half deficit to two late in the game, but Oregon held on to win.

Oregon figured to miss center N’Faly Dante a great deal after the preseason all-conference first-teamer had to undergo knee surgery in November. Instead, the Ducks are alone in first place in the Pac-12, and Dante could return to action as soon as Saturday against Cal (6-10, 2-3).

“We don’t know if he’ll play. We’ll have to see how he responds,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said this week. “He’s kept himself in good shape.”

Meanwhile, the Ducks’ scoring has come consistently from guards Jackson Shelstad (14.8 points per game) and Jermaine Couisnard (13.6).

Cal’s record might not tell the whole story, or the way the Golden Bears have played of late. Cal has won two straight, including an 82-78 stunner over Colorado on Wednesday, when the host Bears came back from a 20-point deficit.

The comeback was the largest in almost 15 years for Cal. Jaylon Tyson had a career-high 30 points, 23 in the second half.

Tyson has scored at least 20 points in five straight games and is the Pac-12’s leading scorer at 20.7 points per game.

“We are going to have many more wins that are impressive over skilled opponents. This is the start,” Cal coach Mark Madsen told the Golden Bears athletics website. “I know we’re going to hit a pothole or two, but I’ll tell you this: We’re going to fight, fight, fight every step of the way.”

–Field Level Media

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