Cal Upends Utah to Stay Atop Pac-12 Standings
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  02/23/2012

Feb. 23, 2012

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - California players were a bit tired, and Utah was hungry for a win.

The result was a much tighter game than the 36-point blowout in the first meeting five weeks ago.

"They made the game ugly and we fell right into place," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said after the Golden Bears hung on for a 60-46 victory Thursday night.

When it came down to crunch time, Cal (23-6, 13-3) looked more like a team gunning for the Pac-12 regular-season title.

After a 9-0 Utah run pulled the Utes within 46-39, Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp scored back-to-back baskets to spark a 7-0 Cal run.

"Things got a little bit dicey, but two veteran guys made plays and we got it back up again," Montgomery said. "I've got to give Utah and Larry Krystkowiak a ton of credit because he's got those kids playing hard."

The victory was the sixth straight for Cal while Utah (5-22, 2-13) has lost eight in a row for the second time this season.

The first-place Golden Bears close out the regular season at Colorado on Sunday and at Stanford on March 4.

"We feel like every minute we play now is for a championship," said Kamp, who led all scorers with 17 points and added seven rebounds. "We have to believe that and we have to step up to the challenge."

Gutierrez added 12 points to move into 24th place on Cal's all-time scoring list, and David Kravish contributed 11. But guard Allen Crabbe, a former Utah recruit, was held without a field goal Thursday. He was 0 for 6 overall and 0 for 3 from 3-point range.

"We're a lot better when he's scoring the ball," Montgomery said of the 6-foot-6 sophomore, who entered the game leading Cal in scoring at 15.6 points a game.

"I think he has to work harder to get shots and we have to work harder to get him shots. He's probably a little tired. ... He'll be back. Obviously he's a key guy for us."

While Cal didn't shoot the ball very well (40.4 percent), it did benefit from Utah turnovers _ 11 in the first half and 18 overall.

"They weren't turnovers because we were getting trapped," Krystkowiak said. "We were just throwing it away. It's beyond me, without pressure, that we're not able to move the ball and make a simple play."

Early, the Utes showed they were ready to contend, with a physical defense that took the Golden Bears out of their rhythm.

Utah led 10-8, and was within 22-18 with 5 minutes left in the half before Cal went on a 13-5 run. A 3-pointer at the buzzer by Justin Cobbs gave Cal a 35-23 halftime lead.

"The 3-pointer right before the half was a big deal because Utah does not score easily and to have the score go from 9 to 12 was maybe a little bit of a deflator for them," Montgomery said.

Still, Utah fought back.

The Utes got within 46-39 on a 3-pointer by Chris Hines and a running jumper by Jason Washburn midway through the second half, before Cal slammed the door.

Hines (15 points) did his best to keep Utah in the game, with a pair of steals and nine first-half points. Cedric Martin finished with 11 points and eight rebounds for the Utes.

But Washburn, Utah's leading scorer and rebounder, had just four points and two rebounds at halftime and finished with 10 points and five rebounds.

"I couldn't grab a ball," Washburn said.

The Golden Bears are trying to grab a Pac-12 prize, which is now in sight, though Colorado is expected to be a major roadblock despite its struggles Thursday against Stanford.

"It's huge," Montgomery said of a chance to win the regular-season title. "It's 18 games. It's what the whole thing is about. I've been saying this for years. We've lost sight of the five months that we grind every day to try to win games because we're so preoccupied with postseason.

"An 18-game regular season is a measure of a team. I always value that above everything else."