Runnin’ Utes Narrowly Defeat Cal Golden Bears On the Road


University of Utah freshman guard Ian Martinez (2) scores during an NCAA Basketball game vs. the Stanford Cardinals at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor


Despite missing starting point guard Rylan Jones, the Runnin’ Utes survived a wild finish to defeat the Cal Golden Bears, 76-75.

First Half

It was a back and forth game between the Utes and the Bears early on as Cal led 9-8 through the first five minutes. The teams traded baskets, despite the pace being fairly slow, as most the shots going down were jumpers and neither team was attacking at the rim.

Timmy Allen started the game strong as he had seven of Utah’s 15 through the first eight minutes of play. This included a wild-and-one-dunk attempt where the ball was originally ejected into the air by the rim but bounced high off the backboard and dropped in for two points. Allen would convert the free throw following the basket.

As the game continued, Utah struggled to get stops but shot the ball extremely well as they were 7-12 (58%) through the first 10 minutes and 1-2 from three point range. The three-ball continued dropping for both teams in the first half as they were a combined 10-18 (55%) through 15 minutes and Utah led 33-31.

But the final five minutes belonged to Utah as they finished the first half on a 12-1 run. The difference was Utah’s suffocating defense as Cal didn’t convert a field goal over that stretch and even committed several shot clock violations.

Thanks to that run and a stellar 14-point first half performance from Allen, Utah took a 42-32 lead into the half. 

Second Half

Cal came out strong as they started the second half on a 9-2 run. The Bears made some obvious adjustments at halftime as they decided to attack the rim a lot more aggressively and started drawing fouls. While Utah only committed three first half fouls, Utah doubled that within the first few minutes which forced Branden Carlson to check out early with three personal fouls.

Through eight minutes, Cal had overcome the 10-point halftime deficit thanks to their aggressive adjustments and some fantastic three-point shooting courtesy of Makale Foreman who tied the game at 50 with back-to-back triples.

The Utes also heavily cooled off as through 11 minutes they were only shooting the ball 4-13 (30%) from the field and 1-5 (20%) from three-point range. Cal, on the other hand, really picked things up and took advantage of Utah’s slump as they started the half 9-18 (50%) from the field and were outscoring the Utes 25-15.

Despite giving up a double-digit advantage, Utah fought back with a 6-0 run over a two minute stretch to retake the lead. Following the run, the pace picked up and the teams started trading buckets yet again.

Ian Martinez contributed in a big way for Utah as he scored nine second half points, including some clutch baskets down the stretch to help Utah maintain the lead.

“I thought Ian stepped up big time,” head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “He made some buckets at a critical point in the game. To be able to come into a game on the road and have some success, ya know, I think everyone is super happy for him. It was a big time performance on his part tonight.” 

Entering the final minute, Utah led by five as Mikael Jantunen came up with a huge steal to give the Utes the ball back with 45 seconds remaining. The Cal turnover eventually led to Allen free throws and helped Utah stretch their lead to seven. 

But Cal refused to go down easy as they continued to put the ball in Matt Bradley’s hand and he attacked the rim with speed and ferocity. Cal would cut it to four with 15 seconds left and after two missed free throws by Allen and a quick bucket at the rim, it was suddenly a two-point game. 

The Utes then turned the ball over and Cal launched a prayer just before the buzzer. Luckily for the Utes, the shot missed but Cal forward Andre Kelly pulled down the rebound and was fouled before time expired. 

With the game on the line and down two, Kelly missed the first free throw and while trying to intentionally miss the second, scored to make it a one point game. The Utes inbounded and time expired with Utah narrowly defeating the Bears, 76-75.

Performance of the Game

With Jones sidelined by injury, Martinez shouldered the responsibility and scored a career-high 16 points. He was incredibly efficient as he went 5-7 (71%) from the field, 1-1 from three-point range and a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe. Martinez also snagged five rebounds and had an impressive block on defense. This was by far Martinez’s best performance as a Ute and filled the void of an injured Jones.

“I just decided to stay focused throughout the game on both defense and offense,” Martinez said. “Especially defense, the kind that gets me into my groove and, you know, helping the team. My mentality is just go out there and be helpful to the team wherever they need me.”

Notable Performances

Allen led the Utes in scoring with 18 points on 6-11 (54%) shooting from the field. Allen had 14 at half but was held to just four second-half points as the Bears looked to get the ball out of his hands. While Allen’s points were critical, he will look to improve upon his free throw shooting as he was just 5-9 from the charity stripe and a few back-to-back misses put the Utes in a tight spot down the stretch. 

Carlson also had a solid night offensively as he posted 13 points on an efficient 6-10 (60%) shooting performance. The big man also had three blocks and was a force to be reckoned with defensively. 

Notable Statistic

Utah got a big lift from the charity stripe as they took 27 free throws and converted 21 (77%) of them. Utah did a great job not only drawing fouls, but only gave Cal 13 opportunities at the line which greatly affected the outcome of the game.

A Look Ahead

The Runnin’ Utes improved to a 9-7 overall record and an even 6-6 in the conference with the victory. Utah will continue their road trip as they face Stanford on Saturday, Feb. 13 with a tip-off of 8 p.m. MST. The game will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Network and as always you can listen to ESPN 700 with Bill Riley on the call.


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