Cal survives Utah in double-overtime
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Jabari Bird saw point guard Charlie Moore drive into the lane and knew the ball might come his way.
”I just cut backdoor and he made a great play and found me,” said Bird, who converted an alley-oop layup with 2.1 seconds left in the second overtime to lift California over Utah 77-75 on Thursday night. ”I thought he might shoot a floater. Once I saw it was a lob, I just tried to make a play on it.”
Bird scored 10 points of his career-high 26 points in the second extra period to help the Bears (16-6, 7-3) move into a third-place tie with UCLA in the Pac-12 standings.
”Charlie did a great job of not forcing the shot,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said.
Said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak of Bird’s game-winner, ”He just made a great play”
Moore had 17 points, seven assists and three steals for Cal, which has won six of its past seven games. Ivan Rabb logged his 11th double-double of the season with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Bird, a senior guard, scored just five points in the first half. But he had 16 in the final four minutes of regulation and the two overtimes.
”We expect him to play at this level. We expect him to make big shots,” Martin said. ”We need that from him.”
Kyle Kuzma had 23 points and 14 rebounds for his 13th double-double to lead Utah (15-7, 6-4) and Lorenzo Bonam scored 15 points, nine of them coming in the second overtime.
”The guys really responded with an unbelievable effort,” Krystkowiak said. ”We had a chance to make some plays but we turned it over and shot ourselves in the foot.”
The Utes had 19 turnovers, 10 of them in the first half.
In the first overtime, Kuzma scored a layup with seven seconds left to tie the score at 62-all. Bird had given the Bears a lead by hitting a jump shot with 22 seconds remaining.
Moore had a chance to win it in regulation, but missed the second of two free throws with three seconds left, leaving the score tied at 55-all.
Cal built leads of 8-0, 12-2 and 18-4. Utah crept within 34-26 by halftime, but did not take its first lead until David Collette hit two free throws for a 51-50 advantage with 6:05 left in the second half.
Utah: The Utes, with a chance to move into a tie for third place, dropped to a share of fifth place in the Pac-12 with USC. With an RPI computer ranking of 75, the loss further clouds their NCAA Tournament picture.
Cal: The Bears needed a win here with a rough final stretch of the Pac-12 schedule looming. The Bears play five of their final seven conference games on the road. ”It’s huge. We were just tied with this team,” Bird said of the win. ”We’re just looking to build on things we’ve been doing.”
BEARS LOVE OT
Cal improved to 3-0 this season in overtime games. They beat UC Irvine 75-65 and Louisiana Tech 68-59, both in single-OT games.
BAD ON THE BOARDS
Cal was outrebounded for just the second time this season, losing the battle 47-41. The Utes had 15 offensive rebounds, turning those into 19 second-chance points. ”We have to try to sweep that under the rug as fast as we can,” Martin said. ”I thought we did a poor job especially (rebounding) in the zone.”
Utah entered the game shooting a conference-best 53.9 percent in Pac-12 games, but converted just 41.5 percent against the Bears. It didn’t help that Cal blocked nine of the Utes’ shots.
Utah: The Utes on Saturday visit Stanford, where last year they lost 70-68 in overtime.
Cal: The Bears complete a three-game home stand Sunday against Colorado. The Bears are 11-1 all-time against the Buffaloes in games played at Berkeley.