No problem for Cal, not when Jordan Mathews is on fire.
The 6-foot-3 freshman entered Thursday night’s trip to Eugene averaging 7.4 points on the season. He had only managed 33 points over his last five games. But on Thursday, he scored 20 of his career-high 32 points in the first half as the Bears notched a huge victory over No. 17 Oregon on the road, 96-83.
Justin Cobbs chipped in with 20 points and 11 assists for Cal.
Who knows if that kind of production from Mathews is in anyway consistent — he’s gone for 22 points in another game this season but also has 10 games in the single-digits — but it is comforting for Mike Montgomery to know that he has that kind of scoring pop coming off of his bench. And regardless of whether or not that kind or performance ever pops up again, it earned the Bears a marquee win on the road over a team that many thought could compete for the Pac-12 title five days ago.
That notion seems silly now.
Because the Ducks don’t appear to want to play any defense.
The Bears scored 96 points on 82 possessions tonight, good for 1.171 PPP, just five days after Oregon conceded 100 points on 78 possessions — or 1.282 PPP — in a loss at Colorado. Now, losing in Boulder is one thing. The Buffaloes are good. But getting drubbed at home by a short-handed Cal team that doesn’t have any depth up front? That’s a concern.
This performance will likely drop the Ducks out of Kenpom’s top 100 in terms of defensive efficiency, and given the kind of athletes they have on that roster, that’s just not acceptable. There’s no questioning Oregon’s ability to put in the ball in the basket, but in their two losses this season, they are averaging 87.0 ppg.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.