Runnin’ Utes leave Bears in the dust, overcome Cal 66-58

Photo Cal Men's Basketball
Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff

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Henry David Thoreau once said “most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” That very desperation was more than evident as the Bears went on to face –– and eventually fall to the Utah Runnin’ Utes on the road.

Both quarters started off sluggishly, with Cal struggling in bringing the ball up the court and getting it in the basket. However, the Bears eventually gained traction in the first half, finding their rhythm, which propelled them to a halftime lead.

The beginning of the first quarter not only saw a severe scoring drought from Cal but also forward Kuany Kuany’s departure from the game due to an injury that he suffered with 13:45 left on the clock. He was out for the remainder of the game.

Struggling to make shots and missing a key player, things looked grim for the Bears.

But little did they know that the winds on the court were about to change. As the first half continued in Salt Lake City, the blue and gold began to show their full potential as things quickly turned around with Makale Foreman in the forefront.

Previously averaging single digits per game, Foreman came off of the bench and exploded for 13 points on five of six shots, making 75% of his shots from beyond the arc during the first half. Along with Foreman’s breakout performance, Andre Kelly was his usual self in the paint and Grant Anticevich chipped in a few 3-pointers, ending the first half with Cal dominating Utah on its home court.

The end of the first quarter revealed a glimpse of the Bears’ true potential. With a good ball handler taking the ball upcourt, Cal’s offense has the opportunity to be deadly. Anticevich is always ready to take the shot from outside, but even in the case he is not, Kelly’s effective screen and rolls provide another option as Kelly’s proficiency lies in making shots in the paint. Conversely, Foreman can easily chuck up those Stephen Curry-esque floaters.

The only problem that remains is consistency.

There seemed to be a pattern forming, with the blue and gold starting slow yet again in the second half. However, it was more than a fleeting fumble this time, as the Bears had lost their first-half selves for good.
The second quarter saw the Runnin’ Utes live up to their name as they went on a 10-0 run to maintain their upper hand over the Bears throughout the remainder of the game, overcoming Cal 66 to 58.

The Bears’ second-half onslaught could be attributed to leading scorer Branden Carlson coming alive and delivering 10 points on the board in the second half. Perhaps it was also the consistent performance of senior guard Both Gach, who put on a show of dunks and midrange jumpers.

Ultimately, the Bears’ defeat can be blamed on none other than themselves as Cal’s performance was riddled with turnovers and offensive woes.

“I don’t think we nearly executed with the authority that we needed on the offensive end to create advantages,” said head coach Mark Fox. “I don’t think we played nearly hard enough to be disruptive in the second half.”

Cal returns home and reenters nonconference play for a four-game homestand. As the Bears take on Idaho State on Dec. 8, all eyes are on them in Haas Pavilion. At a season record of 1-7 and 0-2 in the Pac-12 tournament, the Idaho State Bengals are certainly not as daunting an opponent as the Utes, but the last thing Cal wants to do is underestimate its opponents. The Bears hold a winning record of 4-1 against the Bengals, but have not come face-to-face with them since the ’80s.

These coming home games will provide an opportunity for Cal to find its footing in a relatively less stressful environment. The question of the hour remains: Will the Bears find that much-needed consistency, or will the tough competition in the Pac-12 make them crumble under the pressure?

Tina Xue covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].