California-Oregon Preview

The Associated Press

Oregon appears to have figured things out with Dominic Artis sidelined.

Another matchup against California, though, could present problems Thursday night.

The No. 23 Ducks try to avoid an 11th consecutive defeat to the visiting Golden Bears, who are hoping to move past an altercation between coach Mike Montgomery and star guard Allen Crabbe.

While Oregon (21-5, 10-3 Pac-12) committed 65 turnovers in its first three games after losing Artis to a left foot injury, the Ducks have averaged 12.8 over their last four and won three in a row following a season-worst three-game skid.

Artis, who leads the team with 3.8 assists per game, isn't likely to face California (16-9, 8-5) and could miss Saturday night's visit from Stanford, too.

"We have made progress without DA, we're sure waiting to get him back, but the guys are battling and we know we've got a really tough weekend ahead of us," coach Dana Altman said.

While Oregon has been outscored by an average of 13.0 points during its skid in this series, it's managed to keep the last two meetings close, including a 58-54 road loss Feb. 2. The then-No. 10 Ducks, who were without Artis, held the Golden Bears to 35.6 percent shooting but committed 22 turnovers.

Cal enters seeking a fourth straight win and sixth in seven games after beating Southern California 76-68 on Sunday. While that victory moved the Golden Bears to within two games of the league-leading Ducks, it was Montgomery's shove of Crabbe during a timeout that dominated the headlines.

"It's obvious I made a mistake and I feel very badly about it," Montgomery said. "There's no place in sports that you can basically put your hands on one of your student athletes. Got a little carried away in the heat and emotion of a basketball game so I apologized to Allen, I apologized to the team.

"In 30-plus years of coaching it's never happened before. It's something I deeply regret. It's not going to happen again."

Crabbe recorded 14 of his 23 points after the incident as Cal erased a 15-point, second-half deficit.

"He just did it as a way to spark my play," said Crabbe, averaging a conference-best 19.8 points. "I don't take it as anything negative. I just take it as motivation. He expects a lot out of me. If I want to be a leader on this team I can't play lackadaisical."

Crabbe has averaged 23.3 points on 55.3 percent shooting over the last three games. Fellow guard Justin Cobbs, who scored 22 on Sunday, is averaging 18.3 over that stretch - 3.5 more than his season mark.

"They're playing very well," Altman said. "I think that anytime you have two of the best guards - if not the two best guards - in the league, then you've got a chance in every ball game, which they do. When those two guys get going, they can play with anybody."

Oregon returns home after escaping with a 79-77 overtime win at Washington State on Saturday. E.J. Singler scored a season-high 25 points, including the game-winning free throws with 3.8 seconds left, and Carlos Emory added a career-best 20 off the bench.

"We all just got together and the chemistry started flowing," Emory said after the Ducks came back from 18 points down.

Oregon has outscored opponents by an average of 17.3 points during a 21-1 stretch at home, with the lone defeat coming 48-47 to Colorado on Feb. 7.

Cal had dropped six straight road matchups against Top 25 foes before knocking off then-No. 7 Arizona 77-69 on Feb. 10 behind Crabbe's 31 points and 21 from Cobbs.

The Golden Bears will be trying to defeat three straight ranked teams for the first time since Feb. 9-23, 2002.

What to Read Next