The Pac-12 semifinal round against California was a March Madness gem. Once again, the Utes fought, grinded, and clawed their way to a win, this time in overtime against the Bears, 82-78, to advance to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game against the No. 1-seed Oregon Ducks on Saturday.
LAS VEGAS—The Pac-12 semifinal round against California was a March Madness gem. Once again, the Utes fought, grinded, and clawed their way to a win, this time in overtime against the Bears, 82-78, to advance to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game against the No. 1-seed Oregon Ducks on Saturday.
After a rather sluggish second half, Lorenzo Bonam brought back some magic from the Utes (26-7) game in Boulder, Colo., and beat the final buzzer on a driving layup to tie the game at 70. That came after Jabari Bird got a layup and-one to give Cal (23-10) a two-point lead with just a few precious ticks left.
In one of the finer moments of recent Utah basketball history, Bonam’s teammates jumped on him, elated, and celebrating their refreshed chance to play for the Pac-12 Championship, amidst thousands of crimson-clad Utah fans.
In overtime, the Utes defense clamped down once again, allowing only five points in the final 2:53 of the period, while the Utes fueled their offensive fire, extinguished for most of the game.
Jakob Poeltl, the Utes’ Old Reliable, led the inside attack early and late to push his team over the top. The Pac-12 Player of the Year finished with a casual 29 points and 11 rebounds.
Kyle Kuzma had a quiet game, but his layup with 12 seconds left couldn’t have been louder. That put the Utes up by five points, enough cushion for Utah to withstand a Tyrone Wallace three-pointer. Jordan Loveridge was fouled on the ensuing possession, whereupon he made two of the biggest free throws of his four-year college career to put the game out of reach.
Utah jumped out to a quick 14-4 lead, making 5 of their first 6 shot attempts. Cal called a timeout, out of which sprung a 10-0 Bear run, tying the game at 14. The Utes and Bears traded the lead nine times, holding six ties before Cal extended to a 37-33 lead going into the locker room
The game’s momentum spun in a rut for the first twelve minutes of the second half, neither team gaining any ground on the other. Cal’s lead rose and fell between four and seven points, but the Bears were unable to pull away from Utah amid an extended offensive lull for both teams.
The Utes cut the lead to as few as two and one several times, but didn’t tie the score until there were just 48 seconds left on a Poeltl layup and-one. Free throws and key stops arrived when the Utes needed them most.
No. 2-seed Utah will play No. 1-seed Oregon tomorrow night at 8:00p.m., MT on ESPN 700. Pregame coverage will begin at 6:00 from Las Vegas. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
Utah Utes Postgame Press Conference:
Tommy Connor Postgame: