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January 15, 2012After a string of improved performances, Utah basketball fell back down to earth on Saturday as they fell to the Cal Bears 81-45 in Haas Pavilion.
"They're a markedly better basketball team than we are at this juncture. They played like it," said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. "We don't have much room for error. I didn't think we played with the same intensity that we've played with guarding those guys and some of that has to do with the fact that they're pretty good players."
The Utes had a hard time getting going from the start, as they came out sluggish following a near upset of Stanford on Thursday night. The first half was abysmal for the Utes. They shot 26 percent, hitting only six shots while turning the ball over nine times. They were also outrebounded 17-13 by the Bears.
"I think there was a lack of defensive intensity. We didn't come out as strong as we needed to. We got down in a hole and we couldn't keep our heads up," explained guard Chris Hines.
The Utes came out looking aggressive early, and even had a 7-6 lead before Cal went on a 18-1 run, while holding the Utes without a field goal for 9:37. Long scoring droughts have been somewhat commonplace for the Utes, especially on the road. Limiting those long scoreless stretches will be a priority for Utah as they head into the final stretch of the season.
"Sometimes I think the team gets a little stagnant," said center Jason Washburn. "We go on stretches where we try to do everything ourselves, and that's not just one individual person, that's everybody. Coach says it all the time that when we do that, we're not good on the offensive end."
Utah fared a little better in the second half offensively, improving their shooting to 42.3 percent on 11-26 shooting. However, they were once again plagued by turnovers, coughing the ball up nine more times. To compound matters, most of the turnovers for the game were unforced.
"That's pretty disheartening, " said Coach Krystkowiak. "A lot of [the turnovers] are a certain kind of errors that are a little harder to live with. When you look at the stat sheet, we have 18 turnovers, but they only have four steals, so those are errors that are on the mental end in my mind. They weren't forced errors, so those are a little hard for us to swallow."
After a lackluster performance against Colorado on Thursday, the Cal offense caught fire on Saturday night, especially in the second half. The Bears shot 73.1 percent in the second half and 59.6 percent for the game.
"I think we had a good game plan and we had the right idea to slow them down, because they're an offensive team, but I think we gave them a lot of momentum by not playing them as hard as we have been," said Washburn.
For the Utes, this was a big setback following two weeks of improved basketball. Now it appears they need to go back to the drawing board.
"We've got issues. We'll keep trying to get better, but a lot of times it has a lot more to do with who we're playing than who we are," said Krystkowiak.
"You just go back to practice. We've got to keep our energy up. We've got to keep our heads held high and we've got to look at Thursday. We can't dwell on this. We'll go back and look at film and fix the problem. This is a competitive league. We don't have time to hang our heads. We don't have time for any self pity," said Washburn.
Utah returns to the Huntsman Center on Thursday to face off against Arizona.