Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA TODAY Sports

RECAP: Jabari Bird finishes off Utah as Kingsley Okoroh clogs the middle for Cal in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal

LAS VEGAS -- Cal senior Jabari Bird ties a career high with 26 points, scoring 20 in back-to-back games to help push the Bears to the Pac-12 semifinals.

LAS VEGAS -- With 19.1 seconds to go, Utah's Gabe Bealer had California senior Jabari Bird trapped against the far sideline, across from the Bears' bench. Down by three, he didn't foul. Bird was thrown off. Still, he dribbled, to the sideline, back to mid-court.

Bird feinted left, wheeled to his right. Finally, he saw an opening. For whatever reason, Bealer did not touch Bird, until with 14.1 seconds left, Bird drove the lane and sent up a floater. It was then that Bealer got a hand on Bird's wrist. Bird hit the and-one.

"I was expecting him to foul, so when he didn't, I just tried to make a play going toward the rim," Bird said. "Obviously I got the and one. But I was definitely expecting once I got the ball back to half court, I was expecting him to foul me, and he didn't."

The Bears had led by as many as 11 against the Utes, but after Bird's miracle make, Utah's Kyle Kuzma stepped up and hit a 25-foot three pointer from the top of the arc, cutting the lead to one, 76-75. 

Once again, Bird came up big, as, with 5.5 seconds left, Sam Singer found his fellow senior off the in-bound, and Bird, dribbling up the far sideline again, was fouled by Kuzma. He hit both free throws. A wild three miss by Sedrick Barefield and a volleyball serve of the rebound down the court by Singer later, and the Bears had taken the rubber match against the No. 4-seed Utes, 78-75, avenging a 30-point loss in Salt Lake City a week ago.

"They didn't punk us," Bird said. "Up at their place, they really got into us. They brought the game to us, and we didn't respond. And today, we remembered that game. It was only a week ago, and we came prepared for battle and it showed."

The win capped a 24-game streak in the Pac-12 Tournament where the higher seed had won, and No. 5-seed Cal now will play Oregon at 6 p.m., on Friday, in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal. 

"I know if we got our butts whooped by 30 a week ago, we'd probably have a little different edge to us," said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. "You can't control human nature. But I don't think our guys were thinking about having a feather in our cap because we beat them the last time by 30. We had a good week of practice. We were dialed in. That team from the beginning kind of punched us in the mouth." Bird became the first Cal player since Theo Robertson in 2010 to score back-to-back 20-point games in the conference tournament, tying his career-high with 26 against Utah.

The Bears and the Utes' last two meetings could not have been more different: One, a 77-75 double-overtime win for the Bears, the other a 30-point laugher for the Utes. Likewise, the two other heroes of Thursday's tilt couldn't have been more different: 7-foot, 240-pound junior Kingsley Okoroh, and the generously-listed 5-foot-11, 170-pound freshman Charlie Moore.

Okoroh -- who has a bright future as a Tottenham bouncer -- had arguably the best game of his Cal career, and Moore, who injured his hip in a first-half fall against Arizona on Feb. 11, finally looked like the player who scored 38 to set a Bears freshman record earlier this season.

"I would say so, just me attacking, I felt good," Moore said, when asked if this was as good as he's felt since sustaining the injury. "My thigh wasn't hurting at all. My body felt great. I felt rested, so I think you could say that."

Moore went 8-of-14 for 21 points, with two assists and two steals, while Okoroh had only four total points, but pulled down 10 rebounds and tallied three blocks -- all in the second half. He now needs just four to own the single-season program blocks record.

Ivan Rabb was, as promised last night, calm yet aggressive, going 6-of-6 at the free throw line as part of a 22-for-27 night at the line for the Bears. Rabb finished with 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting, with six rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes.

"Well, I thought he was better today, but he wasn't Ivan Rabb," Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "He was in the ballgame, but he's not the Ivan Rabb that I'm accustomed to seeing. He went 6-for-6 in free throws, and that's great. But he has a lot more in his tank, and I think it will show up tomorrow." In the first half, Okoroh only scored three points, but pulled down five rebounds, including two of the Bears' eight offensive boards, and drew two fouls over the course of two minutes, including one of two first-half fouls on David Collette. That foul was one of two Collette picked up in the span of one second of game time -- one on Okoroh, and one on Rabb -- which sent him to the bench with 9:56 to go.

Utah went scoreless from 10:38, through Collette's absence, all the way until a dunk by Lorenzo Bonam with 5:42 to go. That kind of drought would have and should have been Cal's chance to open up a lead, but instead, the Bears scored just five points in that span, and went 1-for-4 from the field. In a game with just 29 possessions per team in the first half, Cal wasted theirs.

For all that the Bears did well in the first half -- a 19-9 points-off-turnovers margin, an 8-0 offensive rebounding ledger and 12 second-chance points to Utah's 0 -- Cal still found itself tied, 30-30 at the half thanks to a 37% shooting performance, and a dismal 2-for-9 mark from beyond the arc. Stephen Domingo, who went 2-of-5 from long distance against Oregon State on Wednesday and scored 10 points, had multiple open three looks with time to set his feet and fire, but instead went 0-for-3 from three-point range before intermission.

Collette went quietly before the break -- scoring four points with no rebounds -- but Kuzma scored 13 first-half points on 5-of-8 shooting, and was largely a mystery to Cal, defensively, as the Bears, at one point, had 5-foot-11 Moore guarding the 6-foot-9 junior.

Bonam scored six of his eight points in the final 5:42 of the first half, starting with that drought-quenching dunk. It's no coincidence that the Bears played those final 5:42 with both Rabb and Moore saddled with two fouls apiece. During that stretch, Utah went 4-for-6. But, as Okoroh pulled down a rebound with 17:08 to go in the second half, Bonam went down, clutching his left eye. On the other end of the court, Grant Mullins hit an uncontested three.

Okoroh then came up with two big blocks on both Kuzma and Collette moments later, as Cal opened the lead to 41-35 with 15:20 to go. A wide-open three by Bird from the top of the arc pushed the lead to nine.

"I thought he did a tremendous job defensively," said Martin.

The lead shrank back to five with 13:29 to go on a lay-up by Kuzma, but he then went down with cramps, and had to be stretched out by the trainer, allowing Okoroh to strike again, passing from the left wing to Moore up top, who then drove for the up and under lay-in at 11:34, giving the Bears a 50-43 lead.

Moore scored 10 points in the first 9:12 of the second half, with really only one false note -- an ill-advised rushed three from the right wing with 15:48 to go -- in an otherwise very fundamentally-sound game for the freshman out of Chicago.

Okoroh was the architect behind one of Cal's most important stretches in the second half, tipping a Barefield lay-up just enough to send it off line with 9:43 to go, and then gathering up a wild Rabb miss from the right wing on the other end, then finding Rabb again for a make off the right block. Okoroh's third block of the second half with 9:07 to go led to a three by Bird, giving Cal a 57-47 lead.

But, shortly thereafter, Collette drew two straight fouls on Okoroh, one resulting in a three-point play, and the other saddling the junior center with his third foul of the game, with 7:56 to go.

The ball found Moore with 7:24 to go, and with two seconds left on the shot clock, Moore drifted to his right and threw up a prayer with no right to go in, and yet, it found the bottom of the net, giving Cal a 60-50 lead. With three fouls apiece on Okoroh and Rabb, Utah found their footing in the paint, enough to cut the lead to six, but two missed open threes by Barefield with five minutes to go, Cal had a chance to pull away. Rooks found Moore, who went right, drove and then fired out to Bird for a wide open three with 5:21 to go, putting the Bears up 63-54.

Bonam missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Rabb drew a foul from Collette -- his fourth -- on the other end. Rabb went 2-for-2 -- making his sixth consecutive free throw, giving Cal a 65-54 lead with 4:06 to go.

Utah then hit six straight shots -- including four three-pointers (two from Barefield, and two from Kuzma) -- over the next four minutes to reel the Bears in.

"You know, we just started hitting shots," said Kuzma, who scored a team-high 23. "Our problem was we just didn't get enough stops on the other end. Like Coach said, Bird and Moore had great games. That's just what it boils down to, getting stops. But we put ourselves in a position, but it killed us on the other end."

Moore went 1-for-4 over the final 4:17, including an ill-advised long, contested three early in the shot clock.

"I was looking to get the ball to Ivan," Martin said. "Charlie understands that. We talked about that. Trying to get the ball to Ivan. Obviously, work some clock when you get the ball to Ivan. But it didn't present itself like that. And their back side defense was kind of corralling on Ivan, so Charlie took the shot." Top Stories