Larry Krystkowiak called Utah’s 62-57 loss to California on Thursday night “part of the process.”
Brandon Taylor blamed one of the ugliest first halves of the year on a team-wide lack of focus. And in the end, a furious rally for what seems like the 25th time this season couldn’t save the Utes.
Last weekend, Utah traveled to Seattle and beat Washington — spanked the Huskies, really. The Utes seemed close to turning the corner of being a team that can win games in the Pac-12 Conference. They were brimming with confidence.
A turnover-filled first half lacking in energy and overall basketball IQ dashed those thoughts in a hurry. The era of good feeling has come to an abrupt halt.
“It was unacceptable tonight,” Taylor said. “I blame myself for not showing enough poise on the court. The lack of focus we committed in the first half … we were throwing the ball all over the place.”
Before 8,880 at the Huntsman Center, Utah turned the ball over 17 times. A mind-boggling 15 of those came in the first half, which is sort of like hitting every other car on the highway.
California entered the matchup on Thursday night with 16 total steals in Pac-12 play. The Bears matched that total in 40 minutes of basketball. It was the most steals by a team in league play since last season, when Oregon State took the ball from the Utes 16 times.
“I thought our intensity was fine,” Krystkowiak said. “But we weren’t mentally strong. We threw the ball right to them on too many occasions.”
Four Utah players scored in double figures. Jason Washburn led the way with 14 points and seven rebounds. Freshman Jordan Loveridge scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Taylor had 10 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Glen Dean scored 10.
But the Utes couldn’t control Allen Crabbe, Cal’s 6-foot-6 shooting guard and the top scorer in league play. He dropped 23, including eight consecutive points when the Bears went on a 15-2 first half run to take control.
California led by as much as 15 points with 13:57 remaining, but Utah dug and clawed its way back to 58-55 with 49 seconds remaining when Washburn made a 3-pointer.
On the next possession, the Utes forced a miss. But much like the Arizona State game earlier in the season, Utah couldn’t get a defensive rebound when it mattered. Crabbe calmly knocked down two free throws, and that proved to be too much of a mountain for the Utes to climb.
“I thought we had good activity defensively in the first half,” Bears coach Mike Montgomery said. “Sixteen steals is unheard of for us. We had really good focus and active hands created some turnovers, which gave us the ability to get the ball and make some shots.”
The defeat drops Utah back under the .500 mark at 9-10 overall. The Utes are now 1-6 in league play and battling it out for last place with Oregon State, a team they will see in 13 days. Utah now has two more games left of its homestand. The Utes play Stanford on Sunday night and Colorado that following Saturday.
O Cal guard Allen Crabbe scores a game-high 23 points.
• The Bears go on a 15-2 run in the first half to take control.
• Utah rallies to within 58-55, but can’t get all the way even.
Cal 62, Utah 57
CALIFORNIA (11-7) • Solomon 1-2 0-0 2, Kravish 2-8 1-2 5, Cobbs 2-7 2-3 6, Wallace 4-15 3-6 12, Crabbe 8-15 3-4 23, Smith 1-2 0-0 3, Bak 1-2 0-0 2, Thurman 4-5 1-1 9. Totals 23-56 10-16 62.
UTAH (9-10) • Loveridge 3-8 6-6 12, Washburn 5-13 3-4 14, Dean 4-8 0-0 10, Tucker 0-2 0-0 0, Martin 1-2 0-0 2, Seymour 1-1 0-0 2, DuBois 1-2 1-1 3, Lenz 1-2 0-0 2, Taylor 3-6 2-2 10, Bachynski 0-1 0-0 0, Olsen 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 20-47 12-13 57. Halftime—California 32-22. 3-Point Goals—California 6-18 (Crabbe 4-6, Smith 1-2, Wallace 1-7, Solomon 0-1, Cobbs 0-2), Utah 5-13 (Dean 2-3, Taylor 2-5, Washburn 1-1, Tucker 0-2, Loveridge 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—California 31 (Solomon 6), Utah 36 (Loveridge 9). Assists—California 16 (Wallace 8), Utah 12 (Taylor 5). Total Fouls—California 17, Utah 17. A—8,880.