The Utes are at it again this year.
Jarred DuBois scored 21 points and hit a tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation, Jordan Loveridge scored eight of his 20 points in overtime, and Utah upset second-seeded California 79-69 in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals Friday night.
“A lot of times, if you watch basketball at all levels, the team that plays the hardest usually wins,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “So I think that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re playing with some confidence. We’ve got some guys that are stepping up.”
Utah (15-17) knocked off top-seeded Washington in last year’s tournament and took down No. 2 this year by hitting some big shots down the stretch.
The 10th-seeded Utes trailed 59-56 in regulation after Allen Crabbe hit two free throws, but Utah worked the ball around to DuBois, who hit a contested 3-pointer with 4 seconds left to tie the game. Utah dominated overtime and will move on to face the Washington-Oregon winner in Friday’s semifinals.
That’s two down and two to go to the NCAA tournament for the Utes.
“We can’t look ahead or get ahead of ourselves,” Loveridge said. “We’re just trying to play every game as hard as we can and try to see how far we can make it.”
Cal (20-11) needed to play well in the Pac-12 tournament to ensure an NCAA invite but now will have to wait three anxious days to find out if it will get an at-large bid.
Justin Cobbs had 26 points and Crabbe finished with 21 for the Bears.
“We had our chances. We were there,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew this conference is tough, top to bottom. Had our chances to finish it off and just didn’t do our job.”
Utah needs to win the Pac-12 tournament to get into the NCAA tournament and took the first step by holding off USC 69-66 in its tourney opener. It was a good step for the Utes, a young team that struggled to close out tight games, even against smaller opponents like Sacramento State and CS Northridge.
To keep it going, they would have to beat Cal, one of the hottest teams coming into the Pac-12 tournament.
The Bears had some rough patches during the nonconference schedule — three straight losses against ranked opponents in December — and opened Pac-12 play with a mediocre 5-5 start.
Cal gathered some confidence by sweeping the Oregon schools — the Ducks were ranked No. 23 at the time — and closed conference with nine wins in 11 games. The Bears stumbled in the season finale with a 13-point loss to rival Stanford but still earned the second seed in the conference tournament and a coveted first-round bye.
Cal won the first meeting with Utah by five, then dominated the Utes after getting off to a slow start, using a 21-0 run to win 64-46.
Utah shot 29 percent in the blowout loss but dialed in on the rim Thursday night, hitting 10 of its first 14 shots.
DuBois scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half against USC and was still hot in the first half against Cal, scoring 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Cobbs was right there with him, scoring 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting to give Cal a 33-32 halftime lead.
The second half started off a bit more defensive-oriented. Make that a lot more — the teams traded air balls and passes that sailed off the backboard.
Utah missed 10 of its first 12 shots and went nearly 7 minutes without a field goal until Brandon Taylor scored on a three-point play.
Cal was only a little better, allowing the Utes to stay close despite their clanging and eventually pull it out in overtime, leaving the Bears with an uncertain future.
“Upsets happen, and Utah came out ready to play, and they won,” Crabbe said. “I mean, you’ve just got to let it go. Can’t do anything about it now. We’ve just got to come back together as a group and get our focus on whatever is next for us.”
Arizona 79, Colorado 69
LAS VEGAS — Nick Johnson scored 18 points and hit a contested shot with 34 seconds left, helping No. 18 Arizona beat Colorado 79-69 in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.
Arizona (25-6) led by 14 in the second half, but had trouble shaking the desperate Buffaloes (21-11).
Johnson hit his shot between three defenders to put the Wildcats up four and followed teammate Mark Lyons’ two free throws by swatting Askia Booker’s 3-point attempt into Colorado’s bench.
Lyons had 14 points and Solomon Hill 13 for Arizona, which moves on to face No. 21 UCLA in Friday’s semifinals.
Colorado won last year’s conference tournament with four wins in four days and opened this year’s tournament with a six-point victory over Oregon State.
Now the Buffaloes will have to wait for the selection committee to make its decision to see if they’ll get into the NCAA tournament after the close loss to Arizona.
UCLA 80, Arizona State 75
LAS VEGAS -- Shabazz Muhammad scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, Travis Wear hit a jumper with 11 seconds left and No. 21 UCLA rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat Arizona State 80-75 in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday.
Wearing new uniforms with sleeves and camouflage-patterned shorts that looked like pajamas, the top-seeded Bruins (24-8) played like they were barely awake well into the second half.
UCLA rallied behind Muhammad, who scored 10 points during a 17-4 second-half run. Wear hit a long jumper to put the Bruins up 78-75 and Arizona State's Jonathan Gilling missed a 3-pointer in the corner to help UCLA avoid becoming the second straight No. 1 seed to lose its opener.
Larry Drew II had 20 points and Wear finished with 15 to send the Bruins into the semifinals against No. 18 Arizona or Colorado on Friday night.
Jahii Carson had 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds to lead ninth-seeded Arizona State (21-12). Jordan Bachynski had 22 points and Gilling 17 for the Sun Devils, who have to wait until Sunday to see if they'll get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
UCLA won its 31st conference championship by beating Washington in the season finale to finish 13-5 in the Pac-12. The Bruins had some bumpy stretches along the way, losing three of four in January and to struggling Washington State three days before the clincher against the Huskies.
UCLA got the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament, but drawing Arizona State in the quarterfinals was not an ideal first game.
The Bruins were blown out by the Sun Devils in Tempe and needed overtime to escape with a win at Pauley Pavilion.
Arizona State needed overtime to hold off Stanford in its tournament opener, but seemed the fresher team in the quarterfinals, breaking down the Bruins off the dribble and getting the ball inside.
Bachynski had 22 points and 15 rebounds in Arizona State's blowout victory and the Sun Devils fed him early and often. The 7-foot-2 Canadian scored 10 points in the opening 10 minutes, forcing UCLA to start double teaming him down low.
Bachynski had 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting by halftime.
Carson wasn't bad, either.
The redshirt freshman had a huge game in the Sun Devils' opener, scoring a tournament freshman record 34 points, including five in overtime. He was active and aggressive against UCLA, repeatedly getting into the lane for one-handed runners high off the glass or finding teammates for open shots.
Carson had 11 points and four assists in the first half and the Sun Devils hit 15 of 28 shots to lead 41-33.
Muhammad was uncharacteristically quiet for UCLA, unable to shake Carrick Felix to get good looks at the basket. He had four points -- two on a putback at the buzzer -- on 2-of-5 shooting in the first half.
After UCLA trimmed the lead to 3, the Sun Devils tried to run away with it, scoring 10 straight points to go up 53-38.
Then Muhammad woke up.
After missing his first four shots of the half -- two blocked by Bachynski -- he scored 10 points in a little over 5 minutes, including an emphatic tomahawk dunk over Bachynski on the break.
Led by their fabulous freshman, the Bruins stormed back, going on the big run that Drew capped with a 3-pointer to put UCLA ahead 67-66 with 5 minutes left.
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