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Utah tries to return to win column vs. Cal

Dec 21, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; TCU Horned Frogs forward Chuck O'Bannon Jr. (5) goes for the block on Utah Utes guard Gabe Madsen (55) in the first half at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Following an encouraging nonconference slate, Utah dives back into Pac-12 play with a meeting with California on Thursday in Berkeley, Calif.

Utah (9-4, 2-0 Pac-12) caught the nation’s attention with a 15-point win over then-No. 4 Arizona and nearly beat Mississippi State on a neutral floor at the Fort Myers (Fla.) Tip-Off.

The Utes are now looking to snap a two-game losing skid after falling to BYU and TCU by a combined 13 points.

Guard Gabe Madsen made a career-high seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 26 points in the 75-71 loss to TCU, which outscored the Utes 46-28 in the paint.

Utah coach Craig Smith was generally pleased with his team’s effort against the Horned Frogs, but he’s looking for an improved level of focus.

“I think a lot of it is just consistency and having a mindset all the time,” Smith said. “I have no doubt we can do it. We just have to keep doing it consistently. … This is big-boy basketball and you’re not going to be perfect, but you have to be able to play tough all the time and with some discipline.”

Utah will take a step down in competition against Cal (1-12, 0-2), which recorded its first win of the season by beating Texas-Arlington 73-51 on Dec. 21.

Lars Thiemann (17 points), Joel Brown (17) and Kuany Kuany (16) each scored in double figures for the Golden Bears, who had lost 15 straight dating back to last season.

“It’s been really mentally tough throughout the whole stretch,” Thiemann said. “A losing streak like that is very frustrating, obviously, and it’s hard to keep yourself composed, stay together as a team. And I’m very proud of us that we’ve done that. We always stay together.”

Cal posted the win without leading scorer Devin Askew, who sat out with a foot injury and is listed as day-to-day. The junior guard is averaging 16.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

–Field Level Media

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