TIPOFF: 6 p.m. Thursday at MGM Grand Garden Arena. TV/Radio: Pac-12 Networks/910-AM.
The Utah team Cal faces in Thursday’s Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal has won three in a row against conference opponents for the first time in its two seasons in the league. The Utes are on a roll and feeling good about themselves.
They also know they haven’t beaten Cal in two seasons, including a 64-46 loss at Berkeley just two weeks ago.
“I feel like we’re coming together at the right time,” senior center Jason Washburn said after Wednesday night’s 69-66 opening-round win over USC. “This team is really starting to understand what we need to do to win basketball games against good, solid teams.
“We’re going up against a good defensive team with arguably the best player (Allen Crabbe) in our conference. We’re going to have to be even better than we were tonight. We’re going to have to take the fight to them.”
No doubt, Utah got some mileage out of a home sweep of the Oregon schools last weekend. They played loose and with confidence against the Trojans, twice building double-digit leads, then calmly delivering big plays each time USC began to mount a rally.
“That’s the growth of our team,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “We’re trying to get from Point A to Point B. We still have to learn how to win.”
Krystkowiak, who played college ball for Mike Montgomery at Montana, said the Utes will have to take their game up another notch against his mentor’s Cal squad.
“Not take anything away from USC,” he said, “but we’ve got to be a lot more physical and better defending the basketball against the team we face (Thursday) or it could be a little bit embarrassing for us.”
“I don’t know if we need to come up with another master plan. It’s just a really physical team with a couple of the best backcourt guys (in the Pac-12). They were the hot team, still probably are the hot team.”
Utah senior Jarred DuBois is excited about the challenge.
“I think we’re a different team than we were two days ago,” he said. “We take pride in looking forward each day. We’re just going to come out rebound, defend and take good shots and see what happens from there.”
ABOUT THE UTES: Associate head coach Travis DeCuire had Cal’s scout on Utah vs. USC and said he continues to be impressed with their progress. “They’ve improved each game. They play a lot of young guys,” he said. “They run good stuff on offense with four or five shooters on the floor at a time. They’re one of those teams you have to defend with intensity. Early in the year they had some close games they lost at the buzzer. I think they’re starting to figure it out now.”
Against USC, senior guard Jarred DuBois had 22 points, including two huge baskets and an assist to help stretch the lead after the Trojans closed within 60-59. But freshmen are playing significant roles for the Utes, led by forward Jordan Leveridge, who had 15 points and nine rebounds against the Trojans. All told, the Utes got 32 points and 19 rebounds from four freshmen vs. USC.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 13-8. The Bears have won five in a row vs. Utah and are 4-0 since the Utes joined the Pac-12 for the 2011-12 season. The team are meeting for the first time in the Pac-12 tournament.
ETC: Cal is 12-15 all-time in the Pac-12 tournament. … The Bears have blocked a school-record 143 shots this season. … Mike Montgomery, with 108 victories in his five seasons at Cal, needs two more to draw even with the legendary Pete Newell, who won 110 games in his five seasons through 1960. … Crabbe remains in the No. 10 spot on Cal’s career scoring list with 1,489 points. Next up: Brian Hendrick (1990-93) at 1,556. … Former Cal star Shareef Adbur-Rahim will be honored before Saturday’s Pac-12 championship game as the school’s inductee into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor.
WHAT’S NEXT: If the Bears win, they play Friday at 8:30 p.m. against Oregon or Washington in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Cal (20-10, 12-6 Pac-12)
|SG Allen Crabbe||6-6||Jr.||18.6||6.0|
|PF Richard Solomon||6-10||Jr.||8.4||6.5|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||So.||8.2||7.0|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||Jr.||15.1||4.8*|
|SG Tyrone Wallace||6-3||Fr.||7.3||4.5|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Sr.||2.8||2.0*|
|C Robert Thurman||6-10||Sr.||4.7||3.7|
|F Bak Bak||6-9||Sr.||1.6||1.0|
Utah (14-17, 5-13 Pac-12)
|C Jason Washburn||6-10||Sr.||11.7||6.7|
|PF Jordan Loveridge||6-6||Fr.||12.0||7.0|
|SF Cedric Martin||6-4||Sr.||4.0||2.3|
|SG Brandon Taylor||5-10||Fr.||6.5||1.7|
|PG Jarred DuBois||6-3||Sr.||12.6||3.2*|
|G Glen Dean||5-10||Jr.||5.5||2.0|
|G Dakarai Tucker||6-5||Fr.||3.1||1.1|
|F Jeremy Olsen||6-10||Fr.||3.5||2.5|