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3 keys to Utah’s 76-75 win over California

The Runnin’ Utes won their third consecutive game, this one after holding off a concerted second-half rally by the Golden Bears

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Utah forward Timmy Allen (1) shoots against California forward Kuany Kuany during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Berkeley, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.

Jed Jacobsohn, Associated Press

Utah’s men’s basketball team is on a roll.

The Runnin’ Utes entered Thursday’s contest at California riding a two-game winning streak and after 40 minutes of basketball played in Berkley, that streak has grown by one.

Utah defeated California 76-75 and improved 9-7 overall and 6-6 in the Pac-12 this season.

The current three-game winning streak is the Utes’ longest this season, surpassing a two-game streak to start the 2020-21 season and another one in mid-December.

Here are three keys to the Utes’ win over the Golden Bears:

A strong first half

Utah was by far the better team in the first half, particularly late, and built a sizable enough lead to withstand the Golden Bears’ best efforts in the second half.

Utah shot 57.7% from the field through the opening 20 minutes, including 55.6% from 3-point range. Alfonso Plummer led the way from outside, per the usual, as the Utes hit 3 of 6 3-point attempts. Timmy Allen led Utah on the whole with 14 first half points.

All that was enough for Utah to enter the break with a 42-32 lead.

Success of the starting five

Speaking of Allen and Plummer, they were part of what proved to be a very effective Utah starting five. Allen finished with a team-high 18 points to lead the way, but Brandon Carlsen added 13 points, while Pelle Larsson added 11 points, including a team-best three assists.

Mikael Jantunen scored six points himself and also finished with three assists, while Plummer finished with nine points. All told, Utah’s starters scored 75% of the Utes’ points, or in other words, 57 of the 76.

The efforts of certain highly-touted freshman

The only non-starter to have a sizable impact Thursday was freshman Ian Martinez. The highly-touted prospect had arguably his best game as Ute and finished with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with five rebounds.

Martinez was on the floor late in the game and came through in the clutch when needed. He drilled a pair of free throws with two minutes remaining and was the only Ute other than Allen to score in the game’s waning minutes.