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No. 11 Utah beats California 76-61 for 17th consecutive home win

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SALT LAKE CITY — California seemed primed to pull off the road upset against No. 11 Utah on Sunday.

The Golden Bears shot 54.2 percent from the field in the first 15 minutes of the game and were on pace to reach 85 against a team that hadn't allowed more than 72 points all season.

Then came the drought.

Cal went an 11:33 stretch scoring just two points and watched a six-point lead before halftime turn into a 12-point deficit 6 minutes into the second half. The Utes extended their home winning streak to 17 with a 76-61 victory in Pac-12 action.

"They got to the free-throw line, were able to make some plays, get to the rim," Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. "We got a little stagnant instead of staying aggressive. ... They played with a little more aggression.

"I just think they turned the pressure up, tried to turn us over. We got stagnant. As opposed to getting across half-court and attacking the rim, we were settling. ... We allowed them to get their defense set."

The Bears rode a scorching hot Tyrone Wallace to a 32-26 lead with 5 minutes left before halftime. Wallace scored 17 first-half points and was 7 for 8 from the field after the first 20 minutes.

Utah (20-4, 10-2 Pac-12), however, closed the period on a 14-2 run to take the lead and didn't trail after the break thanks to an influx of energy on the defensive end.

The Golden Bears (16-10, 6-7) went 11:33 from late in the first half to early in the second with just one field goal. The Utes clamped down defensively after Wallace's strong start to hold Cal to 41.4 percent shooting in the second half after it shot 50 percent in the first.

"We weren't doing a very good job of guarding them," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "This was the first time in a long time that they were scoring in the early phase of their offense and then when they did miss a shot, we got outhustled to some 50-50 balls.

"We just didn't have much energy and they were playing a heck of a lot harder offensively than we were defensively."

Wallace led Cal with 26 points and Jabari Bird scored 21 as the Golden Bears' five-game winning streak was snapped.

PHOTO: Utah forward Jordan Loveridge (21) defends as California guard Jabari Bird (23) drives the basket in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)
Utah forward Jordan Loveridge (21) defends as California guard Jabari Bird (23) drives the basket in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)

"We just didn't make plays down the stretch of the first half and they did," Bird said. "That gave them the boost they needed and they used that to their advantage the second half. We just couldn't bounce back from it."

Jakob Poeltl had 18 points and eight rebounds while Wright added 16 points for the Utes and Brandon Taylor finished with 13.

TIP-INS

California: The Golden Bears shot 39.2 percent from 3-point range during their five-game winning streak. They made 28.6 percent Sunday. ... Cal was called for two 5-second violations while trying to inbound the ball in the first half. ... C David Kravish is now three rebounds from passing Doug True and moving to No. 5 on the school's career rebounding list.

Utah: The Utes have been ranked for 13 weeks this season, including the last 11 in a row. That's the most time the team has been in the poll since the 1999-2000 season. ... The Utes now have back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 2003-05.

SHORT-HANDED

Cal guard Jordan Mathews entered Sunday's game averaging a team-high 17.5 points per game during league play. However, he was held scoreless on 0 for 2 shooting from the field. Mathews played just 14 minutes due to an ankle injury suffered two games ago.

"He couldn't move at the level he needed to," Martin said. "It was just hard for him to get going. He tried to play, but he couldn't move."

SIGH OF RELIEF

Wright injured an ankle late in the victory and had to be helped off the court by two teammates. He immediately went to the locker room, but returned minutes later. Moments after, Wright checked back into the game. He is scheduled to be evaluated Monday, but Krystkowiak does not expect him to miss any time.

UP NEXT

California: At Stanford on Saturday.

Utah: At Oregon State on Thursday.

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