Utah basketball: Pac-12's top team Cal takes advantage of Utes mistakes, wins 60-46
Jim Urquhart, Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY — Something was missing in Utah's 60-46 loss to California in the Huntsman Center.
And it wasn't necessarily the 15 extra points the Utes could have used.
"I think it was a little bit of a lesson for our guys," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said while noting three elements that are constantly discussed with the team — playing hard, playing together and playing smart.
It was the latter that failed to materialize Thursday night. The Utes turned the ball over early and often against the Bears.
"It's beyond me — without pressure — that we're not able to just keep moving the ball and make a simple play," Krystkowiak said. "... Last time I checked you can't score if you turn it over."
Illegal screens and balls being thrown out of bounds, he added, made for an uphill battle against the Pac-12 leaders.
"That was a pretty good lesson for us coming out that it's more than just playing hard," Krystkowiak said. "So hopefully we can catch a little bit of that focus on Saturday (against Stanford)."
The Utes (5-22, 2-13) enter their home finale with eight consecutive losses. Cal (23-6, 13-3), meanwhile, has now won six straight games.
"I have to give Utah and Larry Krystkowiak a ton of credit because he has those kids playing hard," said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. "They try and make the game to their advantage, which they do. They change defenses, they run four people back so you get nothing off of the break. They made the game ugly, and we fell right into place."
Although the Bears shot just 40.4 percent from the field and finished with their lowest point total since a 57-50 win over Colorado on Jan. 12., they did have three players finish in double-figures. Harper Kamp led all scorers with 17 points, while Jorge Gutierrez and David Kravish contributed 12 and 11, respectively.
Krystkowiak was pleased with the defense. It was the other aspects of the game where Utah fell short.
"It can't be self-inflicted gun wounds, and that's what we're dealing with now," Krystkowiak said. "We're having a hard enough time scoring, and we're bringing a lot of it on ourselves because we've got breakdowns with execution."
The players agreed.
"We didn't play a complete game," guard Chris Hines said after noting that you can't win with 18 turnovers. "It's just that simple."
Taking care of the ball, added center Jason Washburn, is a team effort. The turnovers against Cal, he explained, proved costly because you can't give a good team like the Bears extra possessions,
Things started off well for the Utes. They held a 10-8 lead on a jumper by Hines with 13:45 remaining in the first half.
After that, however, Cal took control. The Bears outscored the Utes by 14 points the rest of the way to take a 35-23 halftime advantage.
Utah turned the ball over 11 times in the first half and failed to grab a single offensive rebound. Cal held decisive advantages in points in the paint (18-10), bench scoring (12-0), second-chance points (6-0) and points off of turnovers (9-4).
The Bears eventually extended their lead to 16 points early in the second half before the Utes managed to cut it to 46-39 on a basket by Washburn with 9:36 left to play.
It proved to be as close as Utah would get, however. Cal responded with a 7-0 run and held the Utes scoreless for almost 4 1/2 minutes to keep the game out of reach. Dijon Farr ended the drought with 5:12 remaining, but it failed to ignite any sort of momentum shift as Utah went on to suffer its first double-digit setback since a 76-58 loss to Oregon State on Feb. 4.
"We're only going to be as strong as our weakest link offensively," Krystkowiak said while noting that all five players need to be on the same page to be successful.
Hines topped the Utes with 15 points. Cedric Martin chipped in 11 and Washburn added 10.
Utah finished with just three offensive rebounds. Blake Wilkinson had two and Martin the other.
"I didn't take enough ownership of that aspect of the game," Washburn said before summarizing the setback. "It's a combination of a lot of bad things, just putting the game out of our reach."
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