SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah had a disappointing month of February, but coach Larry Krystkowiak kept one thing in mind — the No. 4 seed in Pac-12 tournament. That was going to remain the goal until someone informed him that the Utes had been officially eliminated from contention.
The goal is still attainable after a 30-point blowout Thursday night.
Sedrick Barefield scored 14 and Utah defeated California 74-44 in Pac-12 action.
"We've always tried to take great pride in playing good basketball at the right time of year," Krystkowiak said. "And we've learned a lot of lessons ... a variety of different things have gone haywire and kept us from winning some important games. I truly sense things are starting to get a little bit clearer.
"I thought it was one of our better performances of the year. ... There's an energy level. This is a good time of the year to be charged up."
The Utes stayed alive in their pursuit of a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The top four teams in the standings earn a bye and Utah (19-10, 10-7) and Cal (19-10, 10-7) are now tied in the fourth slot.
Cal owns the tiebreak over Utah and USC.
The 30-point win over Cal is the largest Utah has in the series dating back to 1940.
Utah blew the doors open with a 32-10 run after the teams were tied at six apiece and took a 42-22 lead into halftime. The Cal defense struggled to stay in front of anyone and the Utes' first 14 points all came from inside the paint. Utah then dropped back-to-back 3-pointers from Barefield and Lorenzo Bonam to jumpstart the rout.
David Collette and Kyle Kuzma scored 12 apiece and Bonam finished with 11.
"We determined in our game plan that we were just going to get down and get nasty and play some man on them," Collette said. "Everyone was locked in."
The Utes shot 51.6 percent from the field in the first half and scored more points in the paint (24) than Cal totaled in the first 20 minutes. The Golden Bears shot a miserable 30 percent from the field in the first half and never found any flow offensively.
Cal's Jabari Bird and Ivan Rabb came into the game averaging a combined 29.3 points per game as the Bears' top two scorers, but were a combined 1 for 5 from the field in the half. They finished with 14 combined points.
The Utes cruised to victory in the second half.
Grant Mullins led the Golden Bears with 11 points.
"I don't think we competed at the level we normally compete at," Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. "You have to give Utah a lot of credit for making that happen.
"When you have open shots from the perimeter, if they don't fall for you, eventually you got to get some production around the rim and get to the free throw line. If you're getting neither, this is the result."
California: The Golden Bears had the opportunity to lock up the No. 4 seed in the Pac-12 tournament and the first-round bye. They still own the tiebreaker against Utah, but now Saturday's road game against Colorado becomes a must win.
Utah: The Utes are in a wonderful spot considering they went 3-4 in February and are without starter Devon Daniels, who was suspended indefinitely a week ago. Utah has been inconsistent all year, but finds itself one win from its fourth consecutive 20-win season and still in contention for that first-round bye.
Cal was held to season lows in field goal percentage (23.1), 3-point percentage (11.1), assists (three), field goals made (12) and points.
"I give our guys a lot of credit, it hasn't necessarily been one of those celebratory-type years up to this point," Krystkowiak said. "I would take great pride in saying we finished fourth in this particular season (behind three top-seven ranked teams) and then we're going to keep our fingers crossed for postseason."
California: The Golden Bears travel to face Colorado in their regular-season finale Saturday.
Utah: The Utes host Stanford in their regular-season finale Saturday.
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