By Morris Phillips
BERKELEY, CA–The general rule of thumb is when a Pac-12 opponent is trying to give you something, take it.
But on Saturday afternoon at Haas Pavilion, Utah kept giving and host Bears were slow to take, in a frustrating 60-58 loss.
The Utes survived despite going without a made field goal for six-and-half minutes in the second half and losing leading scorer Branden Carlson to injury. Cal got within two points twice, the first with 19 seconds remaining. But Lazar Stefanovic hit a pair of free throws before Jalen Celestine canned a three with five seconds remaining and Utah escaped.
The Bears missed eight of their last 10 shots, and went more than four minutes without a field goal before Celestine’s 3 in the final seconds. Cal shot just 39 percent from the floor, and missed nine of their 11 3-point attempts after halftime when they needed at least one big shot to draw them closer.
“At the end of the night we’ll look back and realize the consequences of some little mistakes throughout the game were great,” coach Mark Fox said. “We had some little mistakes that you look back that were just back-breaking in a two-point loss.”
Marco Anthony led Utah with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists.
“This season, leading up until now, we’ve been on that other side and there’s been some obstacles,” Anthony said. “But now we’re getting over that hump.”
Lars Thiemann led Cal with 16 points, and Kuany Kuany added 10, but they were the only two Bears to make more than half of their attempted shots.
Jordan Shepherd, who scored 33 in the win at Oregon, had 10 against the Utes and was limited by a hand injury suffered in that previous game. Shepard played 34 minutes Saturday but had just two made baskets. Fox touched on Cal’s limitations in playing without Andre Kelly, their leading scorer who has missed the last seven games with a season-ending ankle injury.
“The issue for us, when Lars goes out, we get small really fast,” Fox said.
Utah and Cal have amazing parallels starting with their 10-game losing streaks. Both teams broke their streaks by beating Oregon State less than a week apart, and have gone on to now record road sweeps with Cal winning twice in Oregon last week and Utah beating Stanford and now Cal this week.
Both teams are 4-13 in league play and tied for 10th place after Saturday’s contest. Each will have three more opportunities to come up with a fifth Pac-12 win or more. For Cal, their best shot at another conference victory comes this Saturday against visiting Stanford.