Utah gets an opportunity to avenge one of its few losses in recent weeks when the Utes visit California on Thursday afternoon in Berkeley.
Grant Anticevich led a balanced attack in the absence of star Matt Bradley when the Golden Bears (7-14, 2-12 Pac-12) rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to stun the host Utes (8-7, 5-6) 72-63 in Salt Lake City on Jan. 16.
Cal scored 50 points in the second half that night and has since struggled to score 50 points in some games. The Golden Bears have lost six straight since beating Utah, scoring 57 points against UCLA, a season-low 50 against Arizona and 55 in its first meeting with Stanford last Thursday.
Cal put up 70 in a six-point loss at Stanford in a rematch on Super Bowl Sunday, but that was a bit misleading. The Golden Bears had 24 at halftime and just 50 with 3 1/2 minutes remaining before a late desperation rally.
Cal coach Mark Fox made a point of mentioning his team’s defense hasn’t been great in recent games, either.
“Our defense is not at the level it needs to be to win,” he insisted after Sunday’s loss. “We’re small. But I go back to a year ago and we were better defensively and we weren’t any bigger. We’ve got the same guys. We have to play smarter, a little more physical than we’re being and develop the ability to do that without fouling.”
The Golden Bears will see a Utah team that’s found a higher gear offensively since being held to 63 points in the earlier meeting. The Utes have won three of four since, scoring at least 71 points in each.
The Utes have played just twice since Jan. 24, getting 23 points from Alfonso Plummer off the bench in a 77-74 win at Colorado, then 18 from Timmy Allen in a 73-58 shellacking of Arizona at home last Thursday.
Utah has shot 17-for-35 (49 percent) on 3-pointers in the two-game winning streak, with Plummer going 6-for-13.
The win over Colorado was the Utes’ first in a rematch this season with a team that had beaten them earlier. Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak believes his guys enjoy the motivation that they’ll have again Thursday.
“This is not a business you want to be in, nor a sport you want to play, where frustration can be any part of it,” he said this week. “We’re in control of a lot of the things to avoid frustration, and that’s where our guys, I think, they’ve really rallied around that concept.”
–Field Level Media