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BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Brandon Taylor still thinks about the three free throws he missed in overtime of loss to third-ranked Arizona last month.
He made all the big plays Wednesday night, converting the go-ahead free throws with 1:46 remaining and hitting a 3-pointer with 51.2 seconds left to lead Utah past California 63-59 and give coach Larry Krystkowiak his first 20-win season in three years at the school.
Taylor also knocked down two timely 3-pointers and a layup midway through the second half on the way to 13 points, while Delon Wright's two free throws with 2:11 left tied the game at 50.
"Confidence, man, just confidence," Taylor said. "I stepped up there and had a lot more confidence than I did (against) Arizona. It's really a mental thing. That's it."
Wright added another free throw with 10.1 seconds remaining and Cal star Justin Cobbs missed a 3-pointer before the final buzzer. Wright finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
After Taylor's free throws at 1:46, Renan Lenz made a key block on the other end moments later to help seal it. Cobbs missed two free throws with 47 seconds left.
Krystkowiak's Utes (20-9, 9-8 Pac-12) won their third straight since a 67-63 overtime loss at home against now-No. 3 Arizona on Feb. 19 and hope a nice run at next week's Pac-12 tournament might boost their NCAA tournament hopes despite a handful of narrow defeats.
Krystkowiak spoke to Taylor during a late timeout about looking for his shot.
"He's got a big heart and he's one of our better shooters, and it was good for him to rise to the occasion tonight," Krystkowiak said.
Richard Solomon had 19 points and 14 rebounds and Tyrone Wallace scored 11 for Cal (18-12, 9-8) on a night Cobbs was limited to six points on 2-for-6 shooting - well below his 15.8 scoring average. David Kravish had five blocks, eight points and six rebounds.
Wallace made two free throws with 4:03 left to tie the game at 48, and he became the first player to reach double figures.
"I don't have the answer. Everybody's not engaged in the game at all times," Wallace said. "We're letting our individual play affect how we play as a team, affect us on defense and in places where it shouldn't."
One sign neither team had its best night: On consecutive possessions, each team tossed up an airball from 3-point range in the waning moments. Both teams shot below 40 percent - Cal 35.1 and Utah 39.1.
Taylor found his rhythm when it mattered.
His 3-pointer with 10:51 remaining put Utah up 39-36, then 6-foot-9 Lenz set up his own dunk with 9:57 to go after blocking a shot on the defensive end. Taylor hit another 3 on Utah's next possession, then a driving layup with 6:10 to go.
It was a costly loss for the Golden Bears, who began the final week of regular-season play tied for fourth place in the Pac-12 with Colorado and Stanford. Colorado beat Stanford 59-56 earlier Wednesday at Maples Pavilion.
After the game, players said coach Mike Montgomery called on his players to show more enthusiasm.
"We had several opportunities late in the game to win and didn't make any of the plays," Montgomery said. "We're not playing very well, there's no question about that. We're really having a hard time scoring the ball. I don't know how we can play much better defensively. ... We're having a hard time emotionally sticking with this thing right now. All that being said, we still have a chance."
While positioning for the Pac-12 tournament and a potential bye is still to be determined, Cal certainly hurt its dwindling NCAA tournament hopes.
Cal lost for the fourth time in five games and has its first three-game losing streak of the season. The Bears host Colorado on Saturday to wrap up the conference schedule ahead of the conference tournament in Las Vegas.
"We can't even win a game, I can't tell you about a tiebreaker," Solomon said. "We've got some work we've got to do on both ends of the floor. Nobody likes to lose. We've got to find a way to play better, find a way to get back to where we were at earlier in the season and having success."
Kenneth Ogbe knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers during a 9-0 run as Utah took its first lead of the game at 18-17 with 7:13 remaining in the first half.
The Bears struggled at times against Utah's pressure and committed eight first-half turnovers, with Utah scoring 10 points off those mistakes on the way to a 26-24 halftime lead.
This marked the lone regular-season meeting between the schools based on this year's schedule. Cal won both regular-season meetings last season before losing in overtime to the Utes in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals.
The Bears made 4 of their initial 6 shots and 6 of 11 before Utah emerged from a slow start that featured a travel, two missed free throws and a missed field goal its first three possessions. Cal went cold midway through the first half and was held to five points during a seven-minute span.
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