Utah started its Pac-12 schedule with two games on the road in one weekend and lost them both, on a Friday night at Stanford and on a Sunday at Cal. The 0-2 start to conference play was a red flag for a supposed Pac-12 title contender but the Utes have course corrected since with four wins in a row (and five in six games since that 0-2 start) after a 73-64 win against Cal at home.
Cal, on the other hand, entered Wednesday’s game against the Utes with a ton of momentum fresh off back-to-back wins against Arizona State and Arizona after dropping three straight in conference play. The loss of Tyrone Wallace was apparently covered by Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, but Brown’s impressive effort (27 points) was not enough to power the Bears on the road against an experienced Utah team in the midst of a blackout in Salt Lake City.
Brown and the rest of the Bears had Cal in the game late into the second half, but key buckets like this changed the leverage in favor of the home team.
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Jakob Poeltl finished with 21 points and nine rebounds while Brandon Taylor and Kyle Kuzma each added 15 points, but the late-game defense was the key to the Utes securing an important conference win.
With Utah moving to 5-3 in conference play and Cal dropping to 4-4, the Pac-12 has eight teams within 1.5 games of first place. Jerry Palm has eight Pac-12 teams making the tournament in his most recent Bracketology, but if that number drops then games like these, between tournament hopefuls, could end up deciding who is dancing in March.