Runnin’ Utes Set for Rematch with Cal

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Gabe Bealer dribbling downcourt past the Stanford defense at the Jon Huntsman Center March 4, 2017. Adam Fondren for The Daily Utah Chronicle.

What’s March without a little drama?

The University of Utah men’s basketball team is competing in the Pac-12 Tournament as the No. 4 seed after winning a total of 20 games on the season. Although that seed looked almost unattainable for a couple of weeks, the Utes never lost faith in their ability to accomplish one of their long term goals.

Now, a rematch is set between Utah and Cal after the Bears won a tight 67-62 first round matchup against the Oregon State Beavers.

The most recent time these two teams met, Utah bested Cal by 30 points as the Runnin’ Utes held Cal to a season-low of 44 points. The Utes were out for a bit of revenge in that game after the Bears had served them a double overtime loss earlier in the season, and Cal just may be seeking the same thing come game time on Thursday afternoon.

Utah should be a bit more rested considering it did not play in the first round, but the players know they are going to have to be ready to go no matter what the circumstance is because Cal could be riding on somewhat of a high after its win. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak is staying positive, though, and he thinks any one of his guys could provide a much needed spark.

“I’ve always said that this is the time of year that players make plays,” Krystkowiak said. “We all got our playbooks in, and you see teams having special runs in March, and it usually comes to some unsung heroes that maybe weren’t being counted on to do certain things who catch a little fire at the right time.”

Junior Kyle Kuzma, who was named to the First Team All Pac-12 squad earlier this week, is excited for what Las Vegas holds. At the same time, though, he knows the Utes are not only going to have to perform well, but they will most likely need to win three games if they want to secure that automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Otherwise, the Utes probably won’t be extended an invite.

The team was on bubble watch for a few weeks this season, but after losing its road trip in Oregon, Utah fell off the radar, and winning those three games in the Pac-12 Tournament won’t be any easy task. Kuzma considers the Pac-12 one of the toughest conferences in the nation, and it also has three top tier teams, like Oregon, UCLA and Arizona. Whatever the case is, Kuzma is going to do his best to help his team survive and advance.

“It’s my favorite time of the year, and growing up you want to play basketball in March,” Kuzma said. “There’s a lot of obstacles, but it’s a great time of the year.”

Game time is set for 2:30 p.m. PT, and if the Utes win they will move on to the semifinals to play the winner of the Oregon/ASU  game. If not, the Utes will be sent home.

k.brenneisen@dailyutahchronicle.com

@kbrenneisen

Kim Brenneisen
Kim Brenneisen has been a part of The Daily Utah Chronicle for three years as a sports writer, assistant sports editor and sports editor. She is currently the print managing editor, and she has interned at MLB.com through the Sports Journalism Institute.

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