SALT LAKE CITY — So much for what happened in Seattle. In their first game since upsetting Washington, the Utah Utes dropped a 62-57 decision at home to California — giving a somewhat uninspired performance in the process.
“We can’t come out and think about what we did in the last game. Tonight was humbling and we were not as productive as we were in Seattle,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “That night we were clicking offensively but tonight there was no crispness. There was intensity but we were not doing things we have been doing, like cutting hard. It is natural stuff.”
In failing to do that stuff, the Utes were denied an opportunity to win back-to-back Pac-12 games for the first time since joining the conference last season.
“It’s disappointing. Nobody likes to lose. We just need to stay consistent,” said Utah senior Cedric Martin said after the Utes dropped their third consecutive game in the Huntsman Center. “But we’ve got to put this in the past. We can’t even dwell on it, anymore. Put it in the past and just keep it moving. We’ve got another one on Sunday.”
As was the case with the icy conditions outside, things were cold inside the arena as both teams got off to sluggish starts.
After more than three minutes of play, Utah held a 2-1 advantage. Things didn’t really heat up, in fact, until Cal made its first shot from the field on a jumper by Justin Cobbs with 16:41 remaining in the opening half.
The Utes responded with a 3-pointer by Glen Dean and a basket by Brandon Taylor to re-gain the lead. The scores ushered in a 9-3 run that gave the Utes an 11-6 edge.
It wasn’t enough, however, to weather a lengthy drought that followed. While holding Utah scoreless for a span of 3:16, Cal seized control of the game by reeling off 13 straight points.
Pac-12 scoring leader Allen Crabbe, who missed his first three shots in the game, ignited the run. He hit two 3-pointers and a jumper for the Bears to make it 19-11 with just under nine minutes to go.
Utah drew no closer than six the rest of the half and trailed 32-22 at halftime.
Turnovers plagued the Utes. They had a whopping 15 miscues at the break. Cal netted 14 steals. Cobbs did most of the damage with five swipes.
The Bears wound up scoring 11 points off turnovers, allowing them to negate a 16-9 rebounding deficit.
“We had really good focus and active hands created some turnovers, which gave us the ability to get the ball and shoot some shots,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery.
Taylor noted that the Utes lacked focus and that led to the abundance of turnovers in the first half.
“We were throwing the ball all over the place,” Taylor said.
Cal upped its lead to 15 points in the second half. Utah, though, made a late run and closed the gap to 58-55 on a 3-pointer by Jason Washburn with 55 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately for the Utes, additional momentum failed to materialize down the stretch. The Bears made four free throws and grabbed two key rebounds in the closing seconds to leave with the victory.
“The main thing that affected us was the turnovers in the first half,” Martin said. “We’re capable, but we didn’t put up enough shots today. The put up a lot more shots (56-47) than we did and made a lot more shots (23-20) than we did. Our offensive night wasn’t where it should have been.”
Cal improves to 11-7 overall and 3-3 in Pac-12 play with the win. Utah, meanwhile, drops to 9-10 and 1-6. The Utes host Stanford on Sunday night.
“We are an improving basketball team but we came out slow tonight,” Taylor said. “We are not doomed and we will just have to come out and play harder on Sunday.”
EXTRA STUFF: Crabbe finished with a game-high 23 points for Cal. ... Utah’s Jordan Loveridge led all rebounders with nine. He was also one of four Utes to score in double figures, finishing with 12. Washburn topped the Utes with 14 points. Dean and Taylor each chipped in 10. ... Attendance was 8,880.