University of Utah

Utes Demolish Bears One Week From Pac-12 Tournament

With part one of two of a battle for the fourth seed on the line, the Utes powered through the Cal Bears at the Huntsman Center.

SALT LAKE CITY—Entering the final week of the regular season, Utah has been tough to predict. Will they light up the basket and lock down offenses with their proclaimed defensive identity, or perform lethargically? With only a pair of games in the regular season and a first-round conference tournament bye within reach, they needed to create their own momentum.

Thursday night, at least, the Utes (19-10, 10-7 Pac-12) were the former.

With part one of two of a battle for the fourth seed on the line, the Utes powered through the Cal Bears (19-10, 10-7 Pac-12) at the Huntsman Center, 74-44. Part two will take place on Saturday when the Utes play the Stanford Cardinal and the Bears head to Boulder to play the Colorado Buffaloes.

It initially looked like a traditional Cal-Utah defensive battle early in the game with a 10-9 game after the second media timeout, but the black-clad Utes turned on the jets, powering on a 32-9 run, and didn’t look back.

“I truly sense things are starting to get a little bit clearer,” said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We’re doing a nice job defensively. We played every possession tonight man-to-man. Guys locked in and took a lot of pride defending.”

From there, Utah continued the onslaught, shooting 50.9 percent, holding Cal to 23.1 percent. It was somewhat of an egg-laying performance by the Bears, who suffered their worst loss margin of the season. But the Bears can still stiff-arm Utah away from the fourth seed with a win against Colorado on Saturday.

Though it hasn’t been a nationally-heralded year for his team, Krystkowiak said he “would take great pride” in landing the fourth seed in the conference, considering the strength at the top with elite seasons from Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA.

Utah will know the final score of Cal-CU (noon tipoff) around the time they start against the Cardinal on Saturday (2:00 tipoff). Regardless of the outcome, the Utes are turning on the effort at the right time.

Larry Krystkowiak Postgame:

David Collette, Kyle Kuzma Postgame:

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