However, the Utes once again increased their long odds of an upset loss with senseless turnovers, lukewarm shooting and long, lonely, North Dakota-highway stretches during which they couldn't do much right.
The result was Utah's eighth straight loss, their second such streak of the first season of the Larry Krystkowiak-era.
Thursday could have been condensed to one sequence. Forty minutes were explained in 2.8 seconds.
With the Utes (5-22, 2-13 Pac-12) in position to cut the deficit to six or seven points at the end of the first half, junior center Jason Washburn dribbled the ball off his foot. After a timeout, Cobbs raced the length of the floor and swished a 3-pointer that beat the clock.
When the Utes erred, Cal (23-6, 13-3) was there to clean up the mess.
With the Bears' trio of guards held in check, the Bears were bailed out by senior forward Harper Kamp, who scored 17 points to lead all scorers.
Jorge Gutierrez, a candidate for Pac-12 player of the year finished with 12 points, but leading scorer Allen Crabbe, a one-time Utah recruit, scored just three points - all thanks to free throws.
So Kamp gave Washburn fits, slipping past him on back-cuts and knocking down open shots that Washburn, nor any other Ute, could quickly enough step out to defend.
"He's a good player," Washburn said. "He's just a good all around player. He has a good outside game, which makes him versatile, and he always goes to the glass which gives him opportunities."
Opportunities are one thing the Utes are running out of. With three games remaining in the regular season - and just one, Saturday against Stanford, left at home -Utah's discouraging season is drawing to a close.
Thursday, though, it seemed more like a countdown.
Washburn slumped dejectedly through the postgame press conference, mumbling his way through answers, while Hines, who led the Utes with 15 points, leaned forward on his knees, the frustration of the night not allowing him to relax.
Because even with the mismatch - the Utes were 16.5-point home underdogs - the players felt like they let the game slip away.
"I just couldn't grab a ball, " said Washburn, addressing the Utes' inability to grab offensive rebounds (they managed just three, he had none).
"It's on me," he said. "I just gotta grab a ball."
Utah cut Cal's lead to seven with 9:36 remaining on a basket by Washburn, who finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds. But the Utes did not score for more than four minutes, allowing Cal to reopen a double-digit lead, 53-39, from which the Utes could not recover.
For final box score, click here • http://bit.ly/znKlVa