SALT LAKE CITY — Off its first win in weeks Thursday against Stanford, Utah made its Saturday night matchup against the visiting California Bears harder than it needed to be.
The Utes led by 12 at the halftime break and in all statistical categories against the Bears in a game Utah was expected to win by double digits. But a slew of turnovers by Utah and a 9-0 run by California gave the Bears a 4-point lead and second-half momentum with just over 12 minutes left to play in regulation — their first lead of the game.
California pushed the lead up to 12 in the second half — a 27-point swing from a 15-point Utes' first-half lead — before Utah made a late push; but the damage was already done. The Bears were too much for the Utes and came away with a 72-63 win to close out Utah's four-game home stretch over a seven-day period.
"We had eight turnovers in the first half, challenged our guys to take care of them — I thought we got really sloppy," Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "In my mind this was an opportunity to maybe make it closer to a 20-point lead at halftime if we didn't get sloppy. I thought we had a little disregard for the basketball and you just can't turn the ball over 17 times.
"There's a combination of a lot of things, and in the second half, when they didn't hit big shots, they got offensive rebounds, had a couple 3-point plays — it was kind of a perfect storm for us not to finish the ballgame. I'm really disappointed; I feel bad for the guys."
Cal's Grant Anticevich had 4 points in the first half but took over in the second half to help lead the Bears (7-8, 2-6) to the win. Anticevich finished the night with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and seven rebounds to lead Cal in scoring. He was joined by Makale Foreman, who had 12 points, and Andre Kelly and Jarred Hyder had 11 points apiece in the win.
Utah (5-6, 2-5) controlled the game early and built up a 15-point lead in an opening half that it never trailed in. But the Utes were outscored 50-29 in the second half and had nine turnovers that led to 10 second-half points off turnovers for the Bears. Utah shot 50% from the field in the opening half, to Cal's 33% (and a meager 18% from 3-point range). But Cal finished the game with a higher shooting percentage in the end (47% to Utah's 41%).
But Krystkowiak said it was the turnovers, the disregard for the ball, that led to Utah's demise.
"It's the turnovers," he said. "I think you've got to have some discipline to have more value for the ball to take care of the basketball. It wasn't as much about energy as it was the mental side of the game and being disciplined and fundamental and not giving them points."
Krystkowiak, though, said having four games in a week's period was a contributing factor to Utah struggling to contain Cal. He added that "I'm not taking anything away from Cal" but he said few college teams have that kind of a schedule.
"I'm not here to make excuses, but I don't know if you guys — this is something that's a little bit troubling and I'm trying to protect our team, not make an excuse, but we just played four games in a week," he said. "That doesn't happen very often in college basketball. And if there were a few shots that came up short or maybe we didn't quite have it, I'd like to maybe chalk it up to just having a hell of a challenge ahead of us."
Junior forward Timmy Allen led Utah in scoring with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists. Freshman Pelle Larsson added 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in the loss.
Utah gets a little break before a three-game road trip that begins on Thursday against Washington State. The game will tipoff at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.