Utah won its fourth straight game and California fell to 1-7 away from Haas Pavilion on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, as the Utes avenged a 71-58 loss in Berkeley with a decisive 73-64 win at the Huntsman Center.
In that previous match-up, Utah's Jakob Poeltl scored 19 points, but only scored consecutive baskets once over the course of the game. Cal center Kameron Rooks declared before the game that the Bears had to make sure he didn't finish with his dominant (right) hand, but that's what Poeltl did exclusively on Wednesday, pouring in 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and going 7-of-14 at the line. Poeltl added nine rebounds in 37 minutes.
Rooks was overwhelmed against Poeltl in the post on Wednesday, and for all the tough talk earlier in the week, didn't seem to take into account that Poeltl was looking at this game as a revenge match. The 7-foot Austrian was unchallenged from the right block, and took advantage of early foul trouble from Kingsley Okoroh (who had four fouls in 12 minutes on the floor) to aggressively attack against Rooks.
Cal freshman Ivan Rabb finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds for his eighth career double-double, but it was a very quiet double-double, particularly in light of the physical mis-match that was Poeltl. Rabb was doubled in the post on all but one touch on the night, and he went 4-of-9 from the floor -- shooting 3-of-4 in the second half, and 1-of-5 in the first, as the Bears could not get any kind of offense going.
Beyond not giving Rabb room to work, Poeltl, Kyle Kuzma and to a small extent Jordan Loveridge were a tough wall to penetrate on the offensive boards, as Cal pulled down 12 of 39 offensive rebound opportunities -- 30.7%, well below the Bears' season rate of 33.5%, and not even in the same neighborhood of their 36.9% rate on their home court.
With Rabb being neutralized down low, the ball stuck around the perimeter, with Jabari Bird in particular forcing up very low-percentage shots without his feet set, trying to make something happen.
While Jordan Mathews scored 20 of his game-high 28 against Arizona in the second half, the Cal junior was silent after the break, going 0-for-6 and not taking a single three-point look.
Mathews did hit a two-pointer as the Bears went on a 5-for-5 run to close the first half, narrowing the Utah lead from 11 points down to one at the break, thanks to a three-pointer from Bird and two treys from Stephen Domingo, but after going up by five in the first two minutes of the second half, Cal fell apart.
Starting at 18:10, Utah went on a 15-2 run in which the Utes didn't miss a single field goal, going 5-for-5. That run would turn into a 19-2 run, and that really was the story of the game.During that run, Cal went 1-for-5 with five turnovers. Utah scored 15 points off of 12 Cal turnovers, but those five turnovers in 6:13 were the real killer.
Those turnovers were largely the result of the Bears trying to do too much, and not looking for better shot options. Cal had just eight assists on 23 field goals, with Sam Singer (who had two chase-down tips to save baskets in the second half) dishing out two, and Mathews with a pair, as well.
Late in the game, freshman Jaylen Brown made a push, scoring 17 of his career-high-tying 27 points on 6-of-11 shooting after the break, playing more under control than he has all season. Beyond that, Brown was 8-of-10 from the free-throw line on the game, coming in with a 63% mark from the charity stripe in conference play. In fact, Cal as a whole was solid from the line, going 12-of-14 after coming into the game with a 66% mark in Pac-12 action.
Brown, however, did have a game-high four turnovers, coming in averaging 3.1 per game on the season.
The Bears fly home on Wednesday night, and will fly back out to Colorado on Saturday. Cal will face the Buffaloes on Sunday at 2 p.m., Pacific.