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Utes squeeze past Cal on the road

NCAA Basketball: Utah at California Chris Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Were you like me on Thursday night thinking, “here we go again,” with the Utes against Cal? I felt like I was have deja vu as the Utes built a double digit lead against a bad Cal team just to see it vanish in the second half. Instead of a full on implosion, the Utes avoided the let down, but just barley as they got the win in Berkeley 76-75. The Utes were led by Timmy Allen’s 18 points, while Ian Martinez had a career high 16 points, Branden Carlson continued his strong play with 13 and Pelle Larrson, who had more ball handling responsibility with Rylan Jones missing the game with an arm injury, pitched in 11, while Alfonso Plummer got the start and had nine points.

This game played out like so many for the Utes this season. The Utes got off to a solid start, with some big shots from Plummer, which gave hopes for a monster game when he is hitting jump shots early. Unfortunately he’d struggle for the remainder of the game. It was a bit of a back and forth affair between the two squads for most o the first half, but in the latter half of the first the Utes started to play smart and started to build some separation from Cal, building an eventual 10 point lead going into the locker room. Utah shot 57% in that opening half and went 5 of 9 from deep. It was the Utah defense that forced six rut overs in that opening half, and scored 13 points off those turnovers, and built a 12-1 run to take that halftime lead.

Then the second half started. Cal had a 18-8 run to tied the game, and it was going to be a dog fight from that point on. Utah would go on some mini runs to build a small lead, but Cal would reel them back in to tie it up, time and again. The freshman Martinez really has been playing well for the Utes of late, and he stepped up big on Thursday, as he scored seven consecutive points for the Utes, when the offense was bogging down to keep the Utes in front. Things appeared to be a wrap with the Utes having a six point lead with under a minute left, but Timmy Allen missed free throws that could have put the game away. In the closing seconds of the game, with Utah having a five point lead Cal runs down and hits a three, after Utah couldn’t get a rebound, cutting the lead to two. In a rush to get the ball in, Allen threw a tough pass to Larrson that was turned over, and Cal was able to get a three off for a potential win, but missed, but were fouled in the scrum after the shot. Andre Kelly missed the first of two free throws all but sealing the game for the Utes.

It wasn’t pretty but it’s a win, and Utah has been stringing those together the last few weeks, and have evened up their PAC-12 record at 6-6. The question now is how long will Jones be out, because that didn’t look like a small injury with the type of sling he was sporting on the sideline.

NOTABLES

Utah scored 20 of its 76 points off 14 Cal turnovers … Thursday was the first time Utah had less than 10 turnovers in a game since the Colorado game at home (9) … Martinez is the eighth Ute lead the team in rebounds in a game this season … Thursday’s 21-of-27 from the free throw line was just the third time this season Utah has knocked down 20-plus from the stripe … this is the fifth-straight game Utah has shot 50-percent or better in a game, while winning four of those five.

UP NEXT

Utah remains in the Bay Area as it now gets ready to battle Stanford on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 8 p.m. (MT) on Pac-12 Networks. Ted Robinson will once again walk fans through play while former UCLA great Don MacLean serves as the analyst.