Cal beat up by Utah, NCAA aspirations take a major hit

March 3, 2017

Cal Bears, NCAA

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By Morris Phillips

How will the Cal Bears get past their worst loss in two years as their NCAA tournament aspirations hang in the balance?

They’ll have to win games, there’s no other alternative.

Utah pounced on the Bears Thursday night, winning 74-44, the Utes’ biggest win ever in the series between the two schools.  On a night Cal needed to come up with a big win, they surprisingly played their worst game.  Offensively, they were present only in the game’s opening moments.  Defensively, the Bears never showed up.

“I don’t think we competed at the level we normally compete at,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said.  “You have to give Utah a lot of credit for making that happen.”

After the game was tied at six, the Utes scored 32 of the game’s next 42 points. Cal couldn’t defend the paint, allowing numerous drives to the bucket.  Utah’s Lorenzo Bonham and Sedrick Barefield hit key three-pointers as well.

Inexplicably, as the Bears fell down 20 at halftime, Ivan Rabb took only one shot. The Bears failed to get their preseason-All American the ball, and Rabb too easily slid into the background.

Rabb would finish with eight points, eight rebounds, but miss all three of his shot attempts.  Jabari Bird struggled too, scoring just six points while taking only seven shots.

The Bears have dropped four of five, and their desired fourth place finish in the Pac-12 regular season standings is in jeopardy.  The Bears (19-10, 10-7) will have to beat Colorado on Saturday to gain a bye in the Pac-12 tournament.

Most prognosticators have the Bears as one of the first four teams out as Cal has faltered, and a couple of other teams on the bubble, Illinois, Georgia and others have picked up key wins.  Consequently, the Bears may be NIT-bound if they can’t beat Colorado, then win their conference tournament opener, likely a rematch against Utah.

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