If only one of Eddy Ionescu’s two shots had fallen through the net after bouncing on the rim.
That’s about all that was missing from a feel-good victory for the No. 13 Oregon men's basketball team, which moved back into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 Conference with a 90-56 win over California on Thursday night in front of 7,651 at Matthew Knight Arena.
Oregon scored 21 straight points during one stretch of the first half while Cal totaled 20 before the break. The result was predictable, a 46-20 halftime lead for the Ducks that turned into a blowout victory.
Any concerns as to how the Ducks would fare without injured Chris Duarte and with Will Richardson playing on a sore ankle were dispatched quickly.
The Ducks hit their first five shots from the field to begin a wire-to-wire victory that lost any drama after Matt Bradley scored five straight points to get the Bears within 25-18. Shakur Juiston and Payton Pritchard followed with back-to-back 3-pointers that kicked off the run of 21 straight points.
Addison Patterson made a couple of free throws and Pritchard added a layup before Richardson scored five points in a row. Anthony Mathis poured in a 3-pointer and Patterson converted a 3-point play to put the Ducks ahead 46-18.
“When you are hitting shots like that, it takes the steam out of your opponent,” UO coach Dana Altman said.
The victory moved Oregon (23-7) back into a tie for first place in the conference with UCLA at 12-5. Oregon can clinch at least a share of the Pac-12 title and the top seed in next week’s conference tournament with a win over Stanford Saturday night or a UCLA loss at USC earlier in the day.
Either way, the Ducks wrapped up a first-round bye in Las Vegas and cannot fall below the second seed.
“We’ve had some ups and downs and injuries have slowed us down, but the guys have hung together,” Altman said. “It will be a big game Saturday night and we have to play really well. We are playing a team that really needs a win and we need a win to win a conference championship. It’s not like with our tradition that we can take that lightly because we have not won that many.”
Oregon has won three Pac-12 titles in its history, including back-to-back under Altman in 2016 and 2017. The Ducks clinched each of those championships on the road.
“Everyone talks about March and the NCAA Tournament, but I still think conference titles mean quite a bit,” Altman said. “And playing well going into the conference tournament is important too.”
Pritchard had 20 points and nine assists to pace the Ducks, who shot 59.6% from the field against Cal while making 12-of-17 3-pointers to set an arena record at 70.6%. Cal shot 35.7% from the field while its 10 turnovers led to 17 points for the Ducks.
“I thought defensively we played real hard for most of the game,” Altman said. “Our ball movement was good and obviously we shot it well from , so that gives you a big boost. … We were plus-seven on the boards and only turned it over eight times. We had a lot of good stats and the energy level was good.”
Mathis once again got the start in place of Duarte and made five 3-pointers en route to 17 points, his most in a Pac-12 game.
“Most important is getting the win, but it felt good to finally have a game where I was feeling it a little bit,” Mathis said.
Patterson continued to get more playing time in Duarte’s absence and scored 13 points while Juiston added 10 points.
Some Ducks got a confidence boost during the lopsided victory as N’Faly Dante had six points and three rebounds in 11 minutes that were limited by three fouls. Chandler Lawson made the first 3-pointer of his career.
The biggest roar of the night came when Ionescu, the walk-on brother of UO women’s basketball star Sabrina Ionescu, got off the bench in the final two minutes. Playing in his fourth game, the 6-foot-6 junior attempted his first two shots of the season that were both off the mark.