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Utah basketball: Onwas' defense critical in Utes' win

Published March 12, 2014 6:22 pm

He makes life miserable for Huskies star C.J. Wilcox.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Las Vegas • Princeton Onwas toed the free-throw line late in Utah's 67-61 win over Washington on Wednesday. A 43 percent foul shooter, pretty much every Utes fan knew what was about to happen.

Onwas missed both.

Normally a coach would get a bad shooter off the floor, especially in the last five minutes of a game. But Onwas wasn't going anywhere. His defense on C.J. Wilcox was simply too valuable.

A 6-foot-5 junior, Onwas harassed Wilcox all the way around MGM Grand Arena, forcing him into a 4-of-15 shooting night and essentially robbing the Huskies of their top scoring threat.

"I thought he played great defensively on C.J.," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "I thought we did a good job of challenging him on the perimeter and cutting off his driving lanes as well. That was a big factor."

For most of the season, Krystkowiak has been looking for someone to step into the role vacated by Cedric Martin's graduation — a guy who can shut down the high-powered wings of the Pac-12.

Onwas has slowly morphed into that guy. He scored just six points against the Huskies, going 3-of-7 from the field. But Utah fans can easily make a case for him as an MVP candidate. Not letting Wilcox get hot may have won the Utes the game.

"It's pretty significant when you go through periods where there are scoring droughts," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "If C.J. isn't making shots, it makes scoring a lot tougher on us. We found ourselves in that position."

Utah also won the rebounding battle against the Huskies. That 39-28 edge loomed just as large. Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright pulled down nine and seven rebounds, respectively. Utah garnered 11 offensive rebounds and the Utes generated 15 second-chance points.

That made things difficult on Washington. Too often the Huskies were one shot and out. And on many occasions, Utah came up with second and third opportunities, which they routinely converted.

"I like the fact that we rebounded the basketball," Krystkowiak said. "I thought we were locked in defensively as well. We needed to rebound the ball and we needed to know where C.J. was at all times. That guy is such a good player. You leave him open and he's the best shooter in the league."

tjones@sltrib.com