Utah didn't last long in this year's Pac-12 tournament, dropping a 78-75 decision to 5th seeded Cal. UteZone breaks down what happened.
Avoiding the Cold Start
Utah has been prone to sloppy starts over the entirety of the season and the Pac 12 Tournament has been filled with higher seeds starting games off poorly. But behind Kyle Kuzma and David Collette, Utah was able to start the game firing on all cylinders. Utah made eight of their first 10 shots to start the game. Kuzma and Collette combined for 5-5 and made Utah’s first 11 points. Due to some early turnovers however, Utah was unable to distance themselves from the Golden Bears. The first half was a back and forth slugfest that included seven ties and 13 lead changes.
Losing the Paint
After playing a clean first 10 minutes of the game, Collette picked up two fouls in a five second span. Utah led 18-17 when Collette was regelated to the bench. Without the main cog in the middle Utah sputtered on offense. The Utes missed five straight shots and threw in three turnovers to go four minutes and 12 seconds without scoring a single point. With Jayce Johnson and Tyler Rawson manning the paint, Cal was able to have their way on the glass. Cal out rebounded Utah in the first half 18-9. The Golden Bears grabbed eight offensive rebounds and turned them into 12 first half points. Utah was unable to grab a single offensive rebound.
Lucky for Utah, they rarely missed in the paint, making eight of their 11 attempts at the rim. They were able to out produce the Bears in the paint 20-10, balancing out the lack of rebounding. After 20 minutes of play Utah and Cal were deadlocked at 30 points a piece.
Delayed Cold Start
The Utes saved the sketchy start for the second half. After going toe-to-toe for 20 minutes, Cal exploded on a 14-5 run over the opening minutes of the second half. Over the first nine minutes Cal made five of nine shots, while Utah struggled, going 2-12 from the field. Pushing the lead to 10 points, Utah would need some breaks in order to catch up with Cal.
Searching for a Leader
Despite having many different players who can score, Utah has not established a go-to guy that they can rely on when they need to score. Being down 10 points with under 10 minutes to play in elimination play, Utah needed its leader to emerge. Collette did all in his power to become that guy. Collette took it straight at Kingsley Okoroh in the paint and got an old fashioned three point play. Next he grabbed an offensive rebound and went up quickly for the laying. Minutes later he cut the Cal lead to six after finishing a transition layup and scoring seven straight points for the Utes.
Too Little Too Late
Jabari Bird has long been a thorn in Utah’s side. Bird gave Cal their largest lead of the game at the four minute mark by hitting three straight free throws after being fouled on a three point attempt. Trailing 70-59, Utah would need to get some stops. Barefied hit his second three pointer in two minutes and Bonam followed with a bucket at the rim. Cal led 73-66, when Utah got its first stop. Bonam picked the pocket of Grant Mullins, which led to a pair of Barefield three pointers.
Charlie Moore missed an open shot giving Utah its second stop. This time Kyle Kuzma turned the stop into a three pointer with 1:07 remaining, cutting the lead 73-71. Moore would then miss a three point try and the third stop would again lead to Barefield free throws. This time, however, Barfeield would miss his first attempt and fail to tie the game. Cal would get the ball back, up one point, with 29.6 seconds on the clock.
With the shot clock turned off, Utah elected to not immediately foul Bird on the inbounds. For some reason Bird , despite not being pressured, attacked the hoop, made the runner and was fouled by Tyler Rawson. After converting the three point play, Utah trailed by four, 76-72. In 7.7 seconds Kuzma stepped up and drained a clutch three pointer, making it a 76-75 game with 6.7 seconds left. This time Utah quickly fouled Bird who would go on to make both shots from the line.
Barefield sent a game tying three pointer up at the buzzer, but his attempt was unsuccessful. Utah would be the first team upset in the tournament, falling 78-75 to the fifth seeded Cal Team.