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Utah Basketball: Runnin' Utes Survive and Advance to Pac-12 Championship Game, Beat Cal Bears 82-78

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

You know, near the end of the game between Utah and Cal on Saturday night (Sunday morning), in the Pac-12 Tournament Semifinals, I thought to myself, neither team is playing that great. Both teams were playing good defense, but they missed a lot of shots they'd normally make. Once I thought that, it turned into possibly the game of the year for the Utes.

Everything started perfectly for the Utes, as they jumped out to a quick 14-4 lead to open the game, on the back of 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc by Taylor, Loveridge and Kuzma. Then reality set in and Cal went on a run of their own to take a 16-15 lead just minutes later. From that point on, it was pretty much a battle for the remainder of the half, where Utah trailed by 4, 37-33, and frankly for the rest of the game.

In the second half, Utah and Cal played to a stalemate for almost the entire half. They traded defensive stops,and then they'd trade baskets. Cal maintained around a 3 point lead most of the half, and man, those 3 points seemed like they would never go away. Cal stretched the lead up to 7 at one point, and from that point on Utah just chipped away, until the final minutes of regulation. Utah was trailing by two with under a minute remaining, Jakob Poeltl took the ball and hit a clutch layup, got fouled and completed the three point play. From that moment on, the game really got going. The next couple of possessions, Cal hit a jumper, and then Brandon Taylor hit a pair of free throws after getting fouled on a scrum for the ball. In the closing seconds Cal missed a jumper, but Jabari Bird got a quick offensive rebound and put up a shot, made it and got fouled, and he converted the three point play. Ute Nation, and even Coach Larry Krystkowiak said he got a bit deflated from that sequence, but with 4.3 seconds left Lorenzo Bonam wasn't going to be denied. Bonam received the inbounds pass and rushed down the floor and hit the game tying layup as time expired. The layup was by the skin of his teeth too, as it barely left his hands as zeros hit the clock.

In overtime, Utah led the entire way, as they were able to hit some timely free throws, where they were  25-of-31 on the night. The key basket in OT may have come from Kyle Kuzma, as Taylor drove the baseline, got caught in the air, but found Kuzma diving toward the basket for a layup and a foul.

The Utes were led by Poeltl's 29 points and 11 rebounds. Poeltl was 10-of-18 on the night from the floor, and could have been a lot more, but he missed a lot of bunnies around the basket. Even bigger, possibly, was the fact Poeltl was 9-of-12 from the foul line, and had Cal's big men in foul trouble all night long. Bonam pitched in 18 of his own points, while both Taylor and Loveridge had 12 a piece.

Cal was led by Tyrone Wallace's 26 points, as he was a killer all night long, as Utah couldn't find a way to stop him. Utah did hold Jaylen Brown, Cal's super freshman, to 12 points on 3-of-17 shooting on the night. Ivan Rabb had 13 points, and was a pain in the side for the Utes all night long as well.

Next up for the Utes are the Oregon Ducks, who beat Arizona in overtime right before Utah took the floor. Oregon handled the Utes pretty well in both games this year, and Dillon Brooks had a heyday in both games, especially in Eugene when he had over 30 points. This is Utah's first ever trip to the Pac-12 championship game in their 5 seasons in the league, and it would be a bit poetic if they got their first title by beating a team that's been a serious thorn in their side.

We'll see you later today for the Pac-12 title matchup, because, as the kids say... "We're going to the 'ship!"