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Utah faces improved Cal team after victory over Stanford

Utah Utes light the U in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Utah won 64-56 in overtime.
Utah Utes light the U in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Utah won 64-56 in overtime.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah basketball team may have gotten its hardest game of the week out of the way, but the Utes can’t rest on their laurels with the team picked for last in the conference coming to town Saturday night.

The Utes, who improved to 4-6 in Pac-12 play and 13-9 overall with their 64-56 overtime win over Stanford Thursday, will host Cal at the Huntsman Center for a 6 p.m. tipoff.

The Golden Bears are still looking for their first road victory of the season after giving Colorado all it could handle in a 71-65 loss to the No. 24-ranked Buffs Thursday night.

Despite being picked for last in the preseason poll, Cal has some good victories to its credit this season, including four in Pac-12 play, under first-year head coach Mark Fox and has already surpassed last year’s victory total with 10 wins against 12 losses.

The Bears are led by Matt Bradley, a 6-foot-4 guard who prepped at Wasatch Academy in Utah. He averages 17.8 points per game and 5.0 rebounds and is the leading 3-point shooter at 37.1% with 43 makes. Two players who have started every game this year are 6-3 grad transfer Kareem South (9.5 ppg) and 6-8 junior Grant Anticevich (8.2 ppg), who leads the team in rebounding at 5.6 rpg.

The Utes have been playing with a tight rotation with starting guard Both Gach out with what coach Larry Krystkowiak calls “a mysterious injury.”

When asked about it after Thursday’s game, Krystkowiak said, “I’m going to go coach Whit on you,” referring to football coach Kyle Whittingham’s refusal to ever discuss injuries.

“If I had any answers ... I don’t know if I’d share them with you,” Krystkowiak said. “But I don’t have any answers, so I’d be making stuff up. In the meantime we’ll focus on the guys that we have and keep our focus there.”

In Thursday’s overtime game, the Utes used just seven players for the first time all season as Rylan Jones played 44 minutes, Timmy Allen 42, Branden Carlson and Riley Battin 35 minutes apiece and Jaxon Brenchley 30. The only two to get off the bench were Mikael Jantunen (21 minutes) and Alfonso Plummer (18).

After Saturday’s game, the Utes will hit the road again with games at Oregon State Thursday night and Oregon Sunday.

Utah (13-9, 4-6, Pac-12) vs. Cal (10-12, 4-5)

Saturday, 6 p.m.

Huntsman Center

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: ESPN 700 AM