Palo Alto, Calif. • Brandon Taylor couldn’t help but chuckle at the circle that is his life.
Utah’s sophomore point guard knew this time would come again, the chance to face his demons in a moment where a few made free throws would mean almost everything to his Utes. Two weeks ago, his misses at the foul line went a long way toward costing Utah a chance to beat No. 3 Arizona. On Wednesday night at Cal, Taylor calmly toed the stripe and hit the two shots that would give his team a lead it would never relinquish.
Utah at StanfordSaturday, 12:30 p.m.
Utah 63, Cal 59 (From late Wednesday night)
Onwas 2-7 2-6 6, Taylor 4-8 2-2 13, Loveridge 3-17 6-7 12, Bachynski 3-5 0-0 6, Wright 3-10 5-7 11, Kovacevic 2-3 2-2 6, Lenz 1-3 1-2 3, Tucker 0-1 0-0 0, Ogbe 2-3 0-0 6.
Totals 20-57 18-26 63.
Cobbs 2-6 1-4 6, Wallace 2-7 6-6 11, Kreklow 2-8 0-0 5, Solomon 6-10 7-8 19, Kravish 4-9 0-0 8, Singer 0-0 0-0 0, Behrens 0-0 0-0 0, Mathews 1-4 4-6 7, Bird 1-2 0-0 3.
Totals 18-46 18-24 59
Halftime—Utah 26-24. 3-Point Goals—Utah 5-18 (Taylor 3-6, Ogbe 2-2, Tucker 0-1, Onwas 0-2, Wright 0-2, Loveridge 0-5), California 5-16 (Bird 1-1, Cobbs 1-2, Mathews 1-3, Wallace 1-4, Kreklow 1-6). Fouled Out—Kreklow. Rebounds—Utah 39 (Wright 9), California 34 (Solomon 14). Assists—Utah 10 (Wright 4), California 13 (Cobbs 7). Total Fouls—Utah 22, California 17. A—8,267.
"I knew I would get another chance," Taylor said. "I made sure I was ready."
It’s almost eerie in some ways how Utah’s season has mirrored Taylor’s rise as one of the team’s leaders.
There have been great moments for Larry Krystkowiak’s team, and great moments for Taylor. Defeating the Bears 63-59 at Haas Pavilion in a close road game was great for both.
Taylor scored all of his team-leading 13 points in the second half. With the game tied at 50-50, he dropped in five straight, including a shotclock-beating 3-pointer that silenced the home crowd and served as the dagger. Taylor has always been the picture of confidence — swagger if you will. When his team needed him the most — Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright combined to miss 27 of 33 shots — Taylor made the biggest plays.
What wasn’t seen in the box score was Taylor’s defense — unless you look at the numbers for Cal point guard Justin Cobbs — who scored just six points on 2-of-6 shooting. Taylor had a lot to do with locking down one of the best players in the league.
"We needed every one of those shots," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "He played big and he played with a lot of heart, and he did a great job defensively. There was a point during one of the timeouts where we told him he was passing up some shots he should’ve been taking. I thought that was a turning point for him."
Basketball is a funny game. Taylor’s riding a high at this moment. Two weeks ago, he was near his lowest point. The 5-foot-8 guard left the Huntsman Center after the Arizona game with a hood pulled snugly over his head. But when he got home, he spoke to his father, mother and grandmother over the next 24 hours.
Each had the same message: Keep your spirits up. A chance at redemption will come.
That chance came on Wednesday night, and Taylor took full advantage.
"I wouldn’t say it was the lowest point of my career, but it was definitely a tough time," Taylor said of the OT loss to the Wildcats. "I just knew that I had to go out and keep playing, stick with it and be confident."
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