Cal in four-way tie for third place in Pac-10 Conference
Freshman Amit Tamir scored a career-high 39 points to lead Cal out of a deep hole and defeat Oregon, 107-103, in double overtime on Saturday night at Haas Pavilion.
Shantay Legans also scored a season-high 22 for the Golden Bears as they rallied to knock off the No. 13 ranked Ducks, who held a 19-point lead in the first half. The win marked the Bears’ greatest comeback since they trailed Arizona State by 20 in a 95-78 win in 1994.
The win improves Cal’s record to 17-5 overall and 8-4 in the Pac-10, while Oregon falls to 17-7 and 9-4 in conference. Cal is now in a four-way tie for third place – with Stanford, UCLA and USC – while Oregon falls behind Arizona into second place.
The Ducks could still be in first if they could have held on their big first-half lead. Guards Luke Jackson and Frederick Jones were thorns in Cal’s side all night, scoring 29 and 23 points, respectively. Jackson and Jones kept bringing the Ducks back almost every time Cal threatened to win the game.
But in the end, the Ducks’ duo was no match for Tamir and Legans. Tamir scored the first five points of the second overtime period and Legans the next eight to build a 102-95 lead for the Bears. Tamir capped the night with one more free throw and forward Joe Shipp stole the ball from Jones to finally put an end to the Ducks.
“I’m so happy for our guys,” Cal coach Ben Braun said. “They work so hard. Oregon’s a terrific team. They showed you that. They worked so well in the first half. I give our guys credit because we had to withstand a furious assault from them.”
Both teams shot well for the game, with Cal shooting 57.1 percent to Oregon’s 55.7 percent.
Oregon held a 13-point lead at halftime, thanks to lights out shooting mainly from Jackson and Jones. Overall, the Ducks shot 66.7 percent in the first 20 minutes and made 7-of-11 three-point shots in the half. Jackson, a big guard who was a big matchup problem defensively for Cal and Joe Shipp in particular, led the Ducks with 13 points in the half, while Jones had 10.
“[Jackson] is so effective off at getting off the dribble,” Braun said. “At the same time he gets the shot off, because he’s 6-7. He’s a tough matchup. Freddie Jones is a terrific player. He’s really improved his shooting. He’s so dangerous because he can knock down the three now. When you jam him, he’s an explosive a player as there is, because he can get to the rim as well as anybody in our league.”
But Cal’s defense held the Ducks to just 42.9 percent shooting in the second half, while the Bears clawed their way back with 62.1 percent shooting. They slowed down Jackson and Jones, at least for a little while, by using different defenders against each and then went on a 23-8 run. Cal made a concerted effort to push the ball up court, which led to some easy baskets including layups for Legans and Shipp. A Ryan Forehan-Kelly three capped the run at the 12:22 mark and gave Cal the lead at 58-56.
Tamir scored 19 of his points in the second stanza. His 39 points were the fifth-highest total in Cal history and the most since Ed Gray scored 48 points against Washington State in 1998,
“Amit Tamir has a lot of experience,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. “His body has been through a lot of games and he’s a veteran, experienced player that knows how to get it done. If Luke Jackson or Freddie Jones were his age, they would’ve had an easier time with him. Tamir stepped up with some big buckets tonight.”
“As Oregon was pulling away,” Braun said, “Amit, I thought, very calmly but routinely, took some shots that were there and he made some big plays for us. He seemed to give our team confidence. He and Shantay generated a lot of enthusiasm and made the guys around them better.”