Despite a turbulent season that has featured a 10 game losing streak, a star player with appendicitis, and a player being suspended indefinitely and ultimately out of the program due to a violation of team rules the Runnin’ Utes have never lost their fight. The Utes showed their resilience on Thursday night as they came from behind to beat Stanford for Utah’s first road win since February 2021. It was a win that could provide a significant confidence boost for the remainder of the season as well as into the offseason. Cal has been similar to Utah in that despite their poor record (11-16 overall and 4-12 in conference play) they have not stopped fighting as they picked up an impressive road win at Oregon Thursday night as they beat the Ducks 78-64 in a win that almost certainly has crushed the Duck’s chances of an NCAA Tournament berth. The Runnin’ Utes enter this matchup with a 10-16 record overall and 3-13 in conference play. Cal is led by Jordan Shepherd who is averaging 14.3 points per game, while Utah is led by Branden Carlson who is averaging 13.8 points per game. If the season ended today Cal would be the 10th seed and Utah would be the 11th seed for the PAC 12 Tournament. Each team is playing for nothing more than pride (and conference tournament seeding) when the Golden Bears host the Runnin’ Utes Saturday evening; should make for a really entertaining matchup. Let’s Go Utah!
When: Saturday, February 19 at 4 pm MT
Where: Haas Pavilion (Berkeley, CA)
How to Watch: PAC 12 Network
15:00- Cal shooting 60% to start the game but only lead 7-6 against the Utes after the first timeout in the action. Cal has committed 3 turnovers so far which has led to some makes on the other end for the Runnin’ Utes. Hopefully the Utes can start knocking down shots more consistently.
9:00- Cal goes nearly 5 minutes without a field before they finally end their drought and the Runnin’ Utes lead Cal 17-13. The Utes have played some tough defense and haven’t allowed too many easy baskets or looks for Cal. Great to see Gabe Madsen knocking down a tough 3 just before the timeout, especially with how critical he was down the stretch at Stanford on Thursday night.
7:00- Marco Anthony with a tough basket and an opportunity for an and 1 coming after the timeout. The Runnin’ Utes lead 25-18. Marco Anthony leads all scorers with 9 points. Cal is starting to find some rhythm on offense but so far Utah has had an answer. Strong start for Utah, now we just need to close out the half.
2:00- Utah has continued to answer every time Cal attempts to make a run and the Utes lead 30-22. The Utes are doing a great job crashing the boards and lead the rebounding battle so far; total reversal from the first half Thursday night against Stanford. Thiemann is Cal’s leading scorer so far with 8 points and definitely the guy we need to slow down.
0:00- Crazy end to the first half as Marco Anthony has his shot blocked and Cal hits a shot at the buzzer but he released it just after the time had expired so it doesn’t count. Utah leads Cal 32-24. Marco Anthony leads all scorers with 10 points and Lars Thiemann leads Cal with 8 points. Each team shooting right around 43% from the field and both teams only have one 3 point make in the first half. The key stat for the Runnin’ Utes in the first half is that they lead the rebounding battle 19-14 including 5-0 on offensive rebounds. The Utes have led by as many as 10 points in the first half and honestly should be leading by more at the half. The Utes need to keep pushing the tempo in the second half and keep playing stingy defense so that we can pull away and get some separation from Cal. Great first half overall for the Utes, let’s take over in the second half!
15:00- Both teams looking to increase the tempo in the second half but the Runnin’ Utes have used it to extend their lead 39-30. Gabe Madsen was able to knock down his second three of the game on a great transition look and Marco Anthony using his physicality to get an easy basket after backing down his defender. The surprise in this game has been Branden Carlson who has only 4 points and has settled for a number of attempts from 3 point range. It would be great to see the Utes look to get him the ball a little more.
14:00- Utah slowly continuing to pull away as they lead 43-31. I mentioned Branden Carlson being a surprise with only 4 points but I’ve been also impressed/surpised by the play of Lahat Thioune who has 6 points and just drew another foul after finding great position in the lane. The Utes have done a great job frustrating Cal every time they appear poised to make a run to cut into the Utah lead.
12:00- Cal goes nearly 4 minutes without a field goal before finally hitting a tough basket and the Utes lead 43-33. Utah has played some really tough defense all night which has frustrated the Golden Bears. Even as Cal has had some solid defensive stops recently they just can’t turn it into offense. The Utes need to find their rhthym again on offense and start moving the ball more to generate some open looks.
9:00- Cal with a 9-2 run as Utah continues to struggle to get a basket and Utah leads 47-43 but Cal with some serious momentum.
8:00- Utah turns to Branden Carlson when we desperately needed a basket and he comes through with a tough shot in the lane to give the Utes a 49-43 at the timeout. The Utes had better ball movement on their last possession which will hopefully be a sign of good things to come in a critical few minutes ahead.
4:00- Cal again making a run as they have cut the lead to 55-51 but even more concerning is Branden Carlson went down clutching his right ankle after going up to contest a shot. He seemed to attempt to run down the court and then collapsed after trying to put more weight on it. It appears that he rolled his ankle. It’s been a tough season with injuries for Carlson so hopefully it’s not too serious.
1:00- Tough last few minutes as Cal has been in the double bonus so they’ve been shooting two free throws on every foul. Battin had a huge basket on the offensive end to extend Utah’s lead by 6 before being called for a questionable blocking foul which allowed Cal to knock down 2 free throws. Shepherd then lost the ball attempting to draw a foul which was a huge turnover for the Utes. Definitely going to be a nerve wracking final minute.
1:00- 11.6 seconds left right after Stefanovic with ice in his veins hits two clutch free throws. The Utes desperately need a stop and then knock down their free throws.
Crazy final 12 seconds as Cal knocks down a huge three to cut the lead to 59-58. Marco Anthony is fouled but only knocks down 1 of 2 from the free throw line and Cal misses a long range game winning 3 pointer at the buzzer and Utah holds on to get their second win in a row and their second road win in a row. Thoughts will now shift immediately to the health of Branden Carlson and hopefully he will be ready by Thursday night. Both teams shot around 40% from the field and despite some tough offensive stretches for the Runnin’ Utes in the second half they made enough clutch shots to get the big road win and sweep the season series with Cal. The Utes will now finish the regular season with a 3 game home stand before entering the PAC 12 Tournament. Excellent resilience from the Utes during this two game road trip and a huge win for Craig Smith and the Runnin’ Utes.
Next Up: Utah Runnin’ Utes vs Arizona Wildcats on Thursday, February 24 at 9 pm MT on FS1 (Military Appreciation Night)