LAS VEGAS -- It took a little while for Jakob Poeltl to become Jakob Poeltl.
After a quiet first half in which he tallied just three field goals and three rebounds, Poeltl came alive and finished with 29 points and 11 boards, leading the Utes to an 82-78 overtime victory over Cal in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals.
Every opponent this season has tried different strategies to slow the NBA lottery pick -- most have double- or triple-teamed him, some from the baseline, others from the opposite post -- but the Bears relied a lot on one-on-one matchups with Kameron Rooks and Ivan Rabb. But as the game wore on, they wore out and couldn’t keep pace with Poeltl and his post presence.
Now Oregon will have the opportunity to come up with its best antidote to the Poeltl problem on Saturday evening in the Pac-12 tournament title game. In their previous meetings, the Ducks held Poeltl to lower outputs (Game 1: seven points, seven boards; Game 2: 13 points, eight rebounds), but with Poeltl’s college career likely coming to an end, he’ll want to erase those Oregon memories with some better ones.
Other Utah stars of the evening: Though Poeltl’s emergence pushed the Utes past Cal, several other Utah players stepped up in key moments. Guard Lorenzo Bonam made quick work in driving the length of the court and finishing at the buzzer to force overtime, and just 10 seconds earlier, senior guard Brandon Taylor had sunk two very important free throws. Jordan Loveridge nailed two free throws near the end of overtime to seal the win for the Utes.
Fantastic at the free throw line: Twenty-five of the Utes’ 82 points came at the charity stripe. The Utes shot 81 percent from the free throw line, the sixth-best percentage that they’ve shot this season.
Record-breaking evening for a Bear: Cal guard Tyrone Wallace became just the sixth Bears player to reach the 1,600-point mark. He finished the night with 26 points.