By Morris Phillips
When your best player makes shots winning comes easier. When that best player also shuts down the opponent’s main guy, winning is almost assured.
It was for Utah on Timmy Allen on Saturday at the Huntsman Center.
The Utes leading scorer came up with 14 of his team-best 20 points down the stretch, as well as shutting down Cal’s Matt Bradley in Utah’s 60-45 home win.
“I was just more strong today,” said Allen. “Just played without stress and played stress free, truthfully.”
Bradley led Cal with 13 points, but missed eight of his 13 shots. The Bears shot 32 percent from the field and scored 52 points or fewer for the sixth time this season. Cal’s leading scorer was the only Bear to finish in double-digits, starters Paris Austin and Kareem South combined to miss 15 of their 18 shot attempts.
“They were the aggressors and we didn’t finish enough plays,” said coach Mark Fox. “You have to score when you’re on the road and we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Utes improved to 10-1 at home in a season in which they’ve beaten Kentucky, Washington, Nevada and Minnesota, but have struggled to string wins together. One certainty is their play against Cal and Stanford: the Utes completed the home sweep of the Bay Area schools for the fifth year in a row.
“I thought we had a good game plan for both of the Bay Area schools, and I think we’ve made some good strides in our pick-and-roll coverage,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Our bigs did a really good job. I thought our guards were really solid too.”
The Bears trailed by 11 at the half, and blew an opportunity to climb back in the game when the Utes missed eight of their first nine shots to start the second half. Instead, the Bears went cold, going scoreless for more than three minutes, and Utah seized control.
Cal’s 16 made baskets on just seven assists were both season lows for a Utah opponent.
The Bears return to Haas Pavilion on Thursday for a meeting with Arizona, then they’ll see Arizona State on Saturday. Both Arizona schools were home losers on Saturday with the Wildcats falling to UCLA, and the Sun Devils losing to USC.