EUGENE — Oregon will attempt to protect its men’s basketball lead in the Pac-12 Conference with three consecutive home games, though that stretch begins with the biggest recent nemesis to the Ducks — California.
On the bright side for Oregon, the team learned on Monday that the Pac-12 will take no further punitive action for the flagrant foul assessed against Ducks senior Tony Woods in Saturday’s game at Washington State, which led to his ejection from the game. But in doubt for the Ducks is freshman point guard Dominic Artis, who has missed the past seven games with an injury to his left foot.
The 23rd-ranked Ducks (10-3 Pac-12) have a one-game lead over UCLA and Arizona, both 9-4, with Arizona State and California another game back at 8-5. Each team has five games remaining in the regular season.
Cal will carry a 10-game winning streak over Oregon into Thursday night’s game at Matthew Knight Arena, including a 58-54 victory last month in Berkeley when the Bears scored the game’s final 10 points. That continued a stretch of futility for Oregon in the series, which includes UO coach Dana Altman’s still seeking his first victory over Cal after five attempts, and Cal coach Mike Montgomery unbeaten against Oregon in the five seasons he has coached the Bears.
This meeting will also carry heavy implications in the conference race.
The Bears are only two games behind Oregon after Sunday’s victory over USC, and they have won five of their past seven games, including triumphs over the Ducks, Arizona and UCLA.
Oregon counters with a 15-1 record at home this season, and with three consecutive victories the Ducks seem to have bounced back from a three-game slide that temporarily cost them sole possession of first place.
“I feel good. Our position’s good," UO senior E.J. Singler said. “I like how we have three (games) at home and just two away (to complete the regular season).
“This was a big road sweep for us, but just playing for 20 minutes is not going to win these next five ballgames. We have to get back to playing a full 40 minutes."
After Cal, the Ducks play host to Stanford on Saturday and entertain Oregon State on Feb. 28. The Pac-12 regular season then concludes with two road games: at Colorado on March 7 and at Utah on March 9.
The Ducks have not offered an official estimate on the return of Artis, nor have they been specific regarding the injury itself. But after Saturday’s game at Washington State, Singler described it as a stress fracture.
“It’s a touchy injury ... all I know is it’s a stress fracture," Singler told reporters. “It’s just taking a little more time than he thought, but we don’t want to rush it.
“We don’t want to risk (rushing him back too soon); he’ll just break his foot. He’s taking his time right now. He’s up to jogging. He’ll be back maybe in the next couple weeks."