Runnin' Utes get Bay Area sweep following close win against Bears

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SALT LAKE CITY — The difference between a win and a loss hung in the balance as a last-ditch half-court heave by California's Jordan Shepherd flew through the air with time expiring on the clock Saturday night.

The shot had the distance but hit the left side of the back board as the horn sounded. With the buzzer-beating miss by California, Utah held onto a 60-58 win at the Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, California, and to secure a sweep of the team's Bay Area trip.

It's the first time this season Utah (11-16, 4-13 Pac-12) has won back-to-back games in conference play and the first since the team's midseason Sunshine Slam tournament, in which the Utes won the tournament championship. To add to the luster of the weekend sweep, it's the first Pac-12 road sweep for the Utes since the team got wins against UCLA and USC in 2019.

"It's not always pretty, but you've just got to find ways to win, and tonight we're fortunate to get the dub," Utah head coach Craig Smith said.

"It was just a grinder in every way, shape and form, and you might characterize it as a root canal at times, specifically the second half," he added. "But they're a tough, physical team."

The game didn't end in convincing fashion, especially when a made 3-pointer by Cal (11-17, 4-13 Pac-12) could have been the difference in a win or loss, but Utah walked away with a win, which is more than the team can say for much of their conference slate.

Utah controlled a 10-point lead with just over six minutes left in the game, but Cal chipped away at the lead to make it a 4-point game for the duration of the night until there was 19.9 seconds left when Cal's Kuany Kuany made two free throws to cut the lead to two.

Lazar Stefanovic was fouled on the inbounds and made a pair of free throws of his own to make it a 4-point game again, but Cal wasn't done fighting. With time quickly becoming an issue, Jalen Celestine hit a deep 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game and to make a possible comeback a reality.

Marco Anthony, who was a key figure in the win for the Utes, was fouled following the 3-pointer and hit one of two final free throws in the game. All that was left was to play tough defense to avoid a made basket to ruin the weekend sweep.

"It feels amazing," Anthony said of the win. 'We've been on the other side of the roller coaster these past few weeks, but we really felt like we were on the right track. And we finally got over that bump and got the sweep here in Cali."

"It feels great," added Rollie Worster, who finished with 8 points and seven rebounds. "We've had a lot of close games where we haven't come out on top. And I just think to get this sweep, especially on the road, after how long we haven't had a road win is huge for us and give us a lot of momentum. I think we're all just super excited to keep moving on in the season."

Anthony finished with a team-high 13 points, four rebounds and four assists, but his defense was equally impressive in the win. Anthony was paired up against Shepherd, the team's leading scorer, and limited his ability to have an impact on the night. Shepherd was held to only 4 points in the first half and finished with 10 points, with six of those coming from the free-throw line.

Cal's Lars Thiemann led all scores with 16 points, including a perfect 4 of 4 from the free-throw line, and eight rebounds. Joining him in double figures for Cal was Celestine (10 points) and Kuany (10 points). No player outside of Anthony scored in double figures for the Utes.

Utes center Branden Carlson exited the game with about two minutes left after an apparent rolled ankle. Carlson never returned to the game after being helped off the court. Smith said he doesn't know the severity of the injury, but is hopeful that Carlson will be able to return soon based on it likely being a sprain.

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Josh is the Sports Director for and beat writer covering University of Utah athletics — primarily football, men’s and women's basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.


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