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Runnin’ Utes blow past Cal 74-44

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NCAA Basketball: California at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It seems that a little bit of extra rest can go a long ways for the Utes, as they blew the doors off of the Cal Bears Thursday night 74-44. While Utah had a sizeable lead for much of the first half, they really blew things open in the last six minutes of the first half, when the defense really came alive, and it was a lay up line at the other end of the floor. It was the most aggressive I’ve seen Utah’s defense, as they were jumping passing lanes, rotating and helping each other, and really playing as fast as I’ve seen them play in a long time. Utah took a 20 point lead into half, and many fans were apprehensive that Cal would be able to come back, but Utah put their foot down and just continued to build their lead in the second half, to a point where guys like Kyle Kuzma were able to get some nice extended rest.

Utah was extremely efficient with the ball in that first half, with only three turnovers, and finished with 12 for the night. That’s a number that Utah fans need to keep their eyes on as we move into the conference tournament. The offensive side of the ball was good overall, with the Utes shooting 51% for the game, and a great 84% from the free throw line. The three point shot wasn’t really there at all, going just 4-of-20. However, it was a flurry of about three of those threes that gave the Utes breathing room in the first half by Lorenzo Bonam and Sedrick Barefield. Cal is a good defensive team, and Utah countered that by trying to get baskets in transition all game long, and it worked. They didn’t let Cal set their defense much on the night.

The Utes were led by Barefield in the scoring column, with 14 points, and was 2-of-3 from downtown. He looked as confident as I’ve seen him since the Christmas tournament in Hawaii. Kyle Kuzma and David Collette each pitched in 12 points, and Bonam had 11.

Utah’s defense was awesome, as previously stated. They held Cal to 23% shooting, and held Ivan Rabb to just eight points, all from the free throw line. While Cal isn’t an offensive juggernaut, hopefully Utah can bottle this effort and carry it over to Stanford and the Pac-12 tournament next week.

It is worth noting that freshman guard Devon Daniels didn’t play again, due to his suspension. It’s nice seeing the other guys step up in his absence, like Gabe Bealer, who is getting a much deserved opportunity.

Next up is Stanford on Saturday afternoon for Senior Day at the Huntsman Center.