Cal steals win from Utah at Salt Lake City

Tony Zhou/File
Tony Zhou/File
Tony Zhou/File

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Much like last Saturday’s loss to Stanford, Allen Crabbe took more than 10 minutes to score his basket of the night against Utah. Luckily for the Cal men’s basketball team, it didn’t take until the second half for Crabbe to net his second basket.

After hitting a 3-pointer at the 10:23 mark to give the Bears (11-7, 3-3 in the Pac-12) its first lead at the Jon M. Huntsman Center at Salt Lake City, Utah, Crabbe scored in the very next possession. A minute later, the junior guard drained another 3-pointer to singlehandedly spark a 8-0 run for the Bears.

Crabbe scored 23 points — 10 in the first half — to lead Cal to a much-needed 62 -57 victory over the Utes (9-10, 1-6). He also found his sharpshooting ways again, hitting four of six 3-pointers.

Alongside Crabbe’s newfound shooting touch, the Bears discovered a new talent in pickpocketing the basketball from the Utah squad.

The first possession of the game started with a steal from guard Justin Cobbs; when the game ended, the Bears tallied a total of 16 steals.

Every Cal player had a part in swiping possessions away from the Utes. Cobbs led the team with 5 steals, and all eight players who played had at least one steal.

Backup guard Brandon Smith, who has been out since Dec. 22 due to a concussion, returned to the court to record three points, three assists and one steal. Smith’s return brings much-needed balance and depth to the backcourt.

When both Smith and Ricky Kreklow were unavailable, the only substitute guard remaining was Jeff Powers. Over the last five games, Crabbe and Cobbs both averaged 38 minutes per game.

Cobbs played only 32 minutes — giving him more rest than usual — but still struggled with scoring. Unlike Crabbe, Cobbs couldn’t get himself out of his shooting funk, recording six points with 2-for-7 shooting.

Freshman guard Tyrone Wallace took over Cobbs’ usual position as the second go-to offensive weapon behind Crabbe. Wallace scored 12 points in 4-for-15 shooting and added eight assists in 34 minutes of play.

At the 10:48 mark in the first half, Wallace drained his only 3-pointer of the game to tie the tilt at 11-11. It was the last tie of the contest, since the 8-0 run created by Crabbe built a gap that the Utes just cannot close.

The Bears’ lead continued to grow well into the second half. After ending the first half at 32-25, Cal built its widest lead to 13 points with 13 minutes left in the game.

But Utah steadily gnawed away at the Bears’ lead until the last seconds of the game.

The 13-point lead was reduced to just three points with 55 seconds left. Center Justin Washburn drained down the 3-pointer that put the Utes within one possession, bringing the half-filled Huntsman Center to a short burst of life.

Utah’s comeback dreams lasted less than 30 seconds as Crabbe iced the game with two free throws at the end. A desperate 3-pointer by a Ute missed the net in the dying seconds, effectively ending the game.

Contact Seung Y. Lee at [email protected]