BERKELEY, Calif. — The fact that the Cal basketball team came in as the only winless team in Pac-12 play, and ranked No. 257 in the country in the NCAA’s NET rankings, made no difference to the Utah basketball team Saturday night.
“Whether you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country or the last-place team in your league, it’s always dangerous,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We didn’t talk about it at all. Whenever you let your guard down, you’re vulnerable to letting things go.”
The Utes came in focused and were able to go home with their fourth straight victory. After spotting the Bears a quick 5-0 lead, the Utes took control and cruised to an 82-64 victory at Haas Pavilion as they improved to 5-2 in league play and 11-8 overall after defeating Stanford Thursday night.
“Getting a sweep, that was our goal coming into the Bay Area,” said senior Sedrick Barefield, who once again led the Utes in scoring with 21 points, including 5 of 12 from 3-point range. “We knew we were capable of it and it’s a great feeling to actually do it. We’ve got a nice little win streak right now, so it’s exciting we get to go home this week and try to continue that streak and focus on protecting home court.”
The Utes, who are now tied with USC for second in the Pac-12 standings, will play Oregon Thursday night and Oregon State Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center.
While Barefield led the Utes in scoring, it was a pair of freshmen who perhaps made the biggest difference in the game for Utah. Both Gach came off the bench to score 18 points in 22 minutes, sinking 7 of 10 from the field, while Timmy Allen continued his recent surge with another double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds.
“Statistically those kids played real well and the guys shared the ball,” Krystkowiak said. “Both was shooting the ball and Timmy, playing with energy and a lot of minutes, was a real positive.”
Gach, the 6-7 guard from Minnesota, scored 11 straight points for the Utes late in the first half to push the lead to 14 as he made consecutive shots from the top of the key, drove to the rim for a bucket, then sank another three from out front. In the second half he made a key basket midway through the half, a 12-footer in the lane as the shot clock expired, and then added a pair of late baskets.
“The first shot went in and it felt pretty good after that, so I just kept shooting,” he said.
Allen had eight points, five rebounds and three assists by halftime and made big baskets in the second half after Cal had cut the lead to eight at 66-58, sinking a pair of inside shots and a free throw.
The 6-6 forward from Arizona said he’s feeling more and more confident with each game.
“For sure, game by game, I’ve had a lot of growth in this year,” he said. “I’m just trying to get the most out of it, but still have a long way to go.”
Barefield, one of just three seniors on the team, is happy to see such big contributions from the two freshmen.
“Gach came out and was hooping, just being assertive and not hesitating on his shots. All of us on the team have all seen what he’s capable of,” he said. “Timmy continues to do what he does — he had another double-double tonight. I’m happy those guys are hooping and happy for them.”
Cal, which fell to 0-8 in Pac-12 play and 5-15 overall, was led by Justice Sueing with 20 points, but he was held to six in the second half. Darius McNeill added 15, while Matt Bradley scored 11. The Bears shot just 36 percent in the second half after shooting 47.1 in the first half.14 comments on this story
The Utes took a 46-42 halftime lead as both teams shot well in the first 20 minutes – 54 percent for Utah and 47.1 percent for Cal.
Utah led by as many as 14 points several times in the first half, the last time at 41-27 on a 3-pointer by Gach with 4:33 left. But the Bears finished on a 15-5 run, including the last six points in the final minutes, to cut the lead to four.
In the second half, after Utah got up by as many as 14, Cal got as close as eight with 7:33 left before the Utes pushed the lead back to double digits for good.