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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah shot just 38% from the field and missed their final four shots of the game over the final four minutes of the game, but the Utes hit their free throws down the stretch to stave off California.
It was just enough for the Utes to move past California 66-58 Sunday afternoon to closeout a two-game conference stretch before nonconference play resumes later this week on the road against TCU.
Both Gach paced Utah (6-2, 1-1 Pac-12) to a win with 19 points, six rebounds and three assists, and was joined by Branden Carlson's 12 points and Lezar Stefanovic's 11 points as the only Utes players to score in double figures in the win. Carlson was a game-time decision after suffering an ankle injury earlier in the week against USC, but played 21 minutes for the Utes.
In addition to Carlson, Utah also got 14 minutes out of Gabe Madsen, who had been out for most of the season with an undisclosed injury. Madsen didn't score any points but managed a rebound and assist in his first action since the season-opener against Abilene Christian.
The game started out slow with neither team able to score for the first three minutes of the game, and it took five more minutes for Utah to finally break double digits. Eventually, Utah controlled a 6-point lead before California (4-5, 1-1 Pac-12) went on a 7-0 run to pull ahead of the Utes and the Bears pushed the lead up to 8 with just over six minutes left to play in the half.
By halftime, California led 35-29 to a seemingly disinterested Utah team that struggled to get shots to fall.
Utah used a 10-0 run to start off the second half to take back the lead and then never looked back en route to Craig Smith's first conference win with the program. David Jenkins Jr., who has been in a bit of a shooting slump as of late, finished with only 2 points on 1-of-9 shooting in 25 minutes of play.
California was led in scoring by Jordan Shepherd, who had 14 points on 4 of-13 shooting, three rebounds and two assists. The team shot 40% from the field and a meager 62% from the free-throw line.