BERKELEY, Calif. — After breaking a 48-year drought at Stanford Thursday night with a solid victory over the Cardinal, the Utah basketball team will try to keep its momentum going Saturday night when it takes on Cal at Haas Pavilion.
Tipoff time is 6 p.m. MST in what will be the only regular-season meeting between the two schools this season.
Cal is the worst team in the Pac-12 right now, still winless in league play at 0-7 after falling to Colorado 68-59 Thursday night. For the Utes, it’s a prime opportunity to pick up their third road win in conference play and solidify their spot in the top four in the conference.
“It’s good medicine to have that positive,” said coach Larry Krystkowiak after Thursday’s win at Maples Pavilion. “What's happening with our guys is a lot of the things we’ve been coaching have been affirmed in their minds. It garners a little bit of momentum and confidence, a 'let’s go lay it on the line defensively.' That’s what you have to do on the road, and hopefully we’ll continue with that mindset Saturday.”
Utah’s 70-66 victory over the Cardinal Thursday wasn’t a pretty one for either team, and Krystkowiak was blunt in calling his team’s offense “atrocious.” It was partly because of the 13 turnovers and partly because of the Utes' shooting (41 percent from 2-point range), which was hampered by 10 blocks from the Cardinal. However, he was pleased with the defense for the most part.
“When we play with that kind of energy, we have a chance,” he said. “Because without that defense, as bad as our offense was, we would have been run out of the building.”
Much of the Utes’ offense, particularly in the final six minutes, came from Sedrick Barefield, who scored 13 of his 18 points during that time with three 3-pointers and four free throws, the latter in the final 37 seconds.
Barefield said the Utes won’t be looking past Cal because of their winless league record.
“Every road game in college basketball is tough, regardless of who you’re playing,” he said. “So we’ll approach it the way we’ve been approaching every game. We’ve been emphasizing having great practices and getting better every single day earning what we're going to get. Coach K always tells us we’re going to get what we earn and earn what we get. That’s what we’re living by right now.”
Wyking Jones is in his second season as the Bears' head coach after serving as an assistant under Cuonzo Martin for two seasons. Before that, he was at Louisville for four seasons as an assistant. In his first year, Cal went 8-24 and 2-16 in conference play and lost in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament. This year, the Bears are 5-14 overall, with their best win coming against San Diego State at home.8 comments on this story
Cal is led by sophomore forward Justice Sueing at 14.0 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Austin Paris (13.1 ppg), Darius McNeill (11.6 ppg), Matt Bradley (10.4 ppg) and Kelly Andre (8.7 ppg) round out the likely starting lineup. In all, 10 players have started games this year for Cal.
The Utes are led by Barefield at 15.9 ppg, followed by sophomore Donnie Tillman, who is coming off the bench and scoring 11.2 ppg with 5.6 rebounds. Timmy Allen (10.3 ppg), Parker Van Dyke (6.7 ppg), Jayce Johnson (6.4 ppg) and Riley Battin (6.76 ppg) are the other likely starters, with Both Gach (8.1 ppg) expected to see a lot of minutes.
After Saturday’s game, the Utes return home for a pair of games next week against Oregon Thursday night and Oregon State Saturday afternoon.