LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Utah has finally reached its first Pac-12 tournament championship game in the program's five years in the conference by virtue of the 12th-ranked Utes' 82-78 overtime win over No. 24 California in a semifinal game Friday night. The Utes (26-7) will face regular-season champion Oregon (27-6) on Saturday at 10 p.m. Eastern time in the title game at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. "It's been a goal of ours to try to play in that (championship) game," said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, whose team is on a nine-game winning streak, the longest of his tenure since the 2011-12 season. "I think we've taken a step forward with our program, but with Oregon, there is a reason they finished first. They have an awful lot of firepower." Utah has some talent of its own, including All-Pac-12 center Jakob Poeltl, who scored five of his game-high 29 points in overtime, and senior guard Jordan Loveridge, who made two free throws with 5.8 seconds left in overtime to secure the victory. The Golden Bears (23-10) were led by 26 points from guard Tyrone Wallace, who thrived on the opportunity of playing the Utes after missing Cal's 73-64 loss on Jan. 27 at Salt Lake City because of a broken bone in his right wrist. Wallace was his team's only scorer in double figures until 3:57 left in regulation, when guard Jordan Mathews made a layup, giving him 11 points. Utah's defense often trapped Mathews and guard Jabari Bird, allowing Mathews more scoring opportunities. "I think they were worried about Jabari and Jordan making shots, and like I've said before, whenever teams have to worry about them, it makes my job easier," said Wallace, who made 10 of 21 shots from the field. "I played one on one most of the game, got good looks and made shots." Bird, who finished with 13 points, was part of a wild sequence at the end of regulation. Bird converted a three-point play with 4.5 seconds left to give the Golden Bears a 70-68 lead. Utah guard Lorenzo Bonam received a pass on the wing and drove to the basket, converting the layup at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. "Basically, I mean, (Krystkowiak) said to go to the basket, so I just went to the basket," said Bonam, who averaged 9.8 points entering the game but finished with 18. Bonam's jump shot with 3:08 left in overtime put Utah ahead 75-71. He made one free throw but missed the second with 55 seconds remaining, Utah clinging to a 78-73 lead. Poeltl grabbed a defensive rebound but turned the ball over, leading to a layup by California forward Ivan Rabb with 37 seconds left. After Utah forward Kyle Kuzma made a basket but could not convert the three-point play by missing the free throw, Wallace made a 3-pointer with 7.4 seconds left to cut the lead to 80-78. Loveridge's clinching free throws followed. "I got into a rhythm and just made shots, but we came up short," Wallace said. "We played well and that's something to build on." Poeltl also finished with 11 rebounds and attempted the most free throws in the game (12), making nine. His physical style of play overwhelmed Cal center Kameron Rooks, who fouled out while unsuccessfully trying to defend him. Poeltl also shot 10 of 18 from the field after a 3-of-7 performance in the first half. "They tried to take away my left shoulder, tried to force me to take some left-handed hooks," Poeltl said. "But what I did, I just kept believing in myself." NOTES: All the higher-seeded teams in the Pac-12 tournament have emerged victorious, posting a 10-0 record. ... Utah came into the game on a nine-game winning streak, the longest in the program since the 2008-09 season. ... Cal entered the game ranked second nationally in two-point percentage defense at 40.8 percent. Utah made 18 of 37 shots (48.6 percent) inside the arc. The Bears were No. 1 in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing only 66.6 points per game. ... The Golden Bears are only two blocks shy of matching their school record of 161 blocked shots. They had three against Utah. ... Utah had 22 assists in the win over USC on Thursday, marking the eighth time this season the Utes have recorded at least 20 assists. They had only eight assists against Cal.
No. 12 Utah pulls out OT win over No. 24 California
The Sports Xchange | Mar 12