January 02, 2016

The opener of Utah's Bay Area trip might cost the No. 21 Utes their spot in the Top 25, and the rest of it could heavily impact their Pac-12 season if they aren't careful.

Utah hopes to rebound from a disappointing defeat in its conference opener with Sunday night's visit to a California team that hasn't lost at home.

The Utes (11-3, 0-1) regained a spot in the rankings with a win over Duke two weeks ago and followed it with victories over Delaware State and College of Idaho. That momentum was thwarted quickly, however, with Friday's 70-68 overtime loss at Stanford.

They missed their final four free throws in regulation and all three in overtime to open league play with a loss for the fourth time in five seasons since moving over from the Mountain West in 2011-12.

"We missed shots, missed free throws. That's what happened," said senior forward Jordan Loveridge, who missed two at the stripe with 18.9 seconds left in regulation and another two in OT. "Can't win like that."

After making 62.2 percent of their shots and combining for 58 assists while scoring more than 100 points in their previous two games, the Utes shot 45.6 percent with 14 assists against the Cardinal. Utah also matched a season high with 19 turnovers.

"We're just trying to get this out of our heads and bounce back so we can play Cal," junior guard Lorenzo Bonam said.

Utah has won the last three matchups in this series after dropping five in a row. During a 76-61 win in Salt Lake City on Feb. 15, Jakob Poeltl went 7 of 9 for 18 points.

The sophomore 7-footer leads the Utes with 17.6 points per game, though his average dips to 12.8 over the last six. He scored 16 against Stanford but fouled out before OT.

Utah has lost both of its true road games and closes a three-game, eight-day trip at Colorado on Friday.

Cal (11-3, 1-0) has won all 10 of its games at Haas Pavilion this season and is riding a hot stretch of seven wins in eight games, the lone blemish a 63-62 overtime loss at fifth-ranked Virginia on Dec. 22.

The Golden Bears opened their Pac-12 schedule with Friday's 79-65 home win over the Buffaloes. Jordan Mathews scored just two in the opening half but made five 3-pointers in the final 20 minutes to match a season-high with 22 points set four days earlier.

Mathews has made at least three 3s in each of the last five games, shooting 54.1 percent from long range during that stretch. He has made a 3-pointer in every game this season and in 21 straight dating to February.

Cal has made 52.3 percent of its shots in the last two games and gone 18 of 40 from 3-point range. The Golden Bears also haven't allowed an opponent to shoot better than 38.9 percent in the last four games.

"We know we can score so, as long as we lock down the defensive end, it's great for us moving forward," Mathews said. "The (Pac-12) is tough. It's always good to start off with a win."

The Golden Bears will face a Utah defense that has held its last five opponents to 33.8 percent shooting.

Cal leading scorer Tyrone Wallace had 26 points on 11-for-15 shooting in last season's loss at Utah, and Jabari Bird added 21 while making 10 of 14 shots. The rest of the team, however, finished 5 for 28 (17.9 percent) from the field.

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