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.”