BERKELEY, Calif. — It’s tough winning basketball games when you can’t score. And the Runnin' Utes just ... couldn’t ... score Thursday night at Haas Pavilion, where they had their lowest point total of the season and lowest shooting percentage in a 64-46 loss to the Cal Bears.
The Utes shot an abysmal 29.1 percent from the field on 16 of 55 attempts, their worst percentage of the year by far. From 3-point range it was even worse — 17.6 percent on 3 of 17. Even at the free-throw line, where the Utes came in leading the Pac-12 Conference, they only shot 64.7 percent.
It all added up to another loss, the 16th of the year to go with 11 wins for the Utes, who will move to the other side of the San Francisco Bay to play Stanford on Sunday afternoon.
Contributing to the offensive inefficiency were key turnovers, particularly late in the first half when the Bears went on a 20-2 run to end the half.
“It’s going to be a rough night when you have a combination of turnovers and missed shots,’’ said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “You don’t have much of a chance to win in this environment if you have a combination of those two. That has been the story of our season.’’
Utah’s loss Thursday wasn’t as bad as last year’s 81-45 thumping by the Bears here, but it felt worse. Perhaps because the Utes are much improved over a year ago and they actually were in control for most of the first half before things quickly unraveled.
The Utes led 22-14 after a basket at the 6:33 mark of the first half. However from that point, the Utes were outscored 20-2 to end the half and 6-0 to start the second half for a decisive 26-2 overall run. They didn’t score again until freshman Dakarai Tucker stole the ball and made a layup with 13:34 left in the game.
That's two points in more than 12 minutes of play. After getting 24 points in the first 13-plus minutes, the Utes could only manage 22 over the final 27 minutes.
“There’s a lot of different facets to the game, but if you’re not shooting ... we were getting good looks and they wouldn’t go in,’’ said Krystkowiak. “We kind of ran the gamut with inefficiency on offense. We really found a way to shoot ourselves in the foot.’’
Cal (18-9, 11-5) came into the game on a five-game winning streak, but the wins were all close, including back-to-back victories last week in the state of Oregon by two points and one point. The Bears hadn’t beaten any team by more than 13 points in more than two months, since beating Prairie View A&M by 32 in late December.
It looked like the Bears would have another fight on their hands until the Utes crumbled amid a sea of too many turnovers and not enough made baskets.
“Basketball is a funny sport in that it’s a contagious sport in a way,’’ said Jason Washburn, who managed just 2-of-9 shooting. “A couple of guys hit shots and all of a sudden the whole team makes some shots. A couple of guys miss some shots and the whole team misses. I don’t think anyone really understands it. You can’t put reason to it. It’s the nature of the game.’’
The Utes didn’t even have a single player score in double figures as Jordan Loveridge led the way with nine points, all in the first half. He also led the Utes with 11 rebounds.
Besides Washburn’s 2 of 9, Jarred DuBois shot just 1 for 8 from the field and Brandon Taylor was 1 for 6.
“The last thing I want to do is call out guys on our team, but when three of your starters are 4 for 23 and your backcourt is 2 for 14 that’s not good,’’ said Krystkowiak.
Cal was led by Pac-12 player of the year contender Allen Crabbe, who scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Justin Cobbes added 12 points and Tyrone Wallace chipped in 11.
“We didn’t play well early and you have to give credit to Utah,’’ said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “We did a good job once we figured out where we needed to have it. We got moving and got stops and as a result we were able to get up 10 at the half.’’