LAS VEGAS (AP/CBS SF) — Jabari Bird had 26 points and scored on a key three-point play with 14 seconds left, helping California hold off Utah 78-75 on Thursday in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals.
Cal (21-11) led by 11 with 2:17 left, but Utah (20-11) charged back, pulling to 73-72 with 29 seconds left. Bird followed with a hard drive and was fouled, but Kyle Kuzma hit a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game again.
Bird hit two free throws and Utah’s Sedrick Barefield missed a wild 3-pointer at the buzzer, sending the Bears charging from their bench.
Charlie Moore added 21 points for fifth-seeded Cal, which moves on to play No. 5 and top-seeded Oregon in Friday’s semifinals.
Kuzma had 23 points to lead the fourth-seeded Utes.
Both teams entered the Pac-12 Tournament likely needing a decent run to have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament.
Utah put a big dent in Cal’s chances with a 30-point win on March 2, part of five losses in six games to close the season by the Bears. The Utes closed the regular season with three straight losses, but earned a bye in the conference tournament.
Cal set up the bubble match-up by outlasting Oregon State in the opening round.
Utah beat Cal by two in overtime in the first meeting during the regular season and the tournament game played out more like that one, neither team able to get much separation in the first half.
Kuzma had 13 points, but Utah scored 12 on eight offensive rebounds to it 30-all at halftime.
Cal made five of its first nine shots in the second half and did a better job of containing Kuzma, building the lead 44-35 in the opening four minutes.
The Bears continued to keep Utah at arm’s length, going up 57-47 on Bird’s 3-pointer from the wing, their 10th made basket in 17 second-half shots.
Utah stormed back in the closing minutes behind Kuzma, who hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final 67 seconds.
Cal has taken two solid steps toward the NCAA Tournament and can take a big one Friday if it can knock off Oregon in the semifinals.
Utah will have to sweat out selection Sunday to see if it will be among the 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Cal plays No. 5 and top-seeded Oregon in Friday’s semifinals
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