Seven minutes is a long time in a basketball game.
It probably seemed like a lifetime for Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak on Saturday night. His squad went scoreless for seven minutes and 10 seconds midway through the first half. During that stretch, the Cal men’s basketball team turned a one-point deficit into a commanding 13-point lead en route to an 81-45 rout to remain undefeated at Haas Pavilion this season.
Forward Javon Dawson’s free throw ended the streak, but it would be another two and a half minutes until Utah made a field goal, nearly 10 minutes since their last one. By then, the Bears (15-4, 5-1 in the Pac-12) were up by 14.
“Utah has had difficulty shooting the ball this year; it’s kind of their achilles heel,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “I think tonight kind of pointed that out.”
Utah (4-13, 1-4) had trouble scoring all night, but for most of the first half, the ball literally would not go in the basket for the Utes. Cal played solid defense, but the squad wasn’t necessarily smothering the Utes — they simply couldn’t score. Utah players were air balling layups and bricking jumpers.
The Bears did not look quite as dominant as their 32-15 halftime lead indicated, but Utah was never competitive after Cedric Martin opened the game with a 3-pointer.
“When you don’t score, you say you don’t shoot it well,” Montgomery said. “When they don’t score, you say it’s good defense.
Senior forward Harper Kamp’s five first-half baskets were just one fewer than the entire Utah team totaled in the frame. The Utes shot 26.1 percent from the field in the period and had more turnovers (nine) than field goals (six).
Utah opened the second half with a 3-pointer, but the Bears made their first five shots, including two buckets from point guard Justin Cobbs, who had 14 points and a career-high 11 assists. Cal as a whole shot close to 60 percent from the field. Kamp scored 14 points behind a baseline jumper that has become nearly automatic.
“We talked about being patient,” said senior guard Jorge Gutierrez. “I thought we played a little more patient tonight, and shots were open, and we were making them.”
Allen Crabbe had another quiet night. After going scoreless in the first half of Thursday’s win over Colorado, the sophomore guard had just one basket at the half. He missed all five of his 3-point attempts, but he still tallied 10 points and four assists.
With Brandon Smith still out from a concussion, Emerson Murray was the first guard off the bench and scored 10 points in 14 minutes of play, both numbers far exceeding his season average.
“I was getting put in really good situations from (the guards),” Murray said. “I’ve been working hard to get some playing time. The fact that Brandon is out obviously means I have to make some plays, and tonight I was able to.”
The lead ballooned to 30 with nine minutes to go when Gutierrez passed to Murray, who gave it back to the senior for a wide-open three. Gutierrez had a modest 15 points to lead the team, a bounce-back effort after shooting just 2-of-17 on Thursday.
When Montgomery emptied his bench with several minutes remaining in the contest, Cal actually extended its lead. Alex Rossi, who redshirted last season and had not played yet this season due to a sports hernia, scored his first points as a Bear.
“I can’t even tell you how happy I am for him,” Gutierrez said. “He struggled to get healthy.”