Swat team: Utah Utes blow out Sun Devils by using defense

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25 2014 1:16 a.m. MST

Utah's Renan Lenz battles with Shaquille McKissic as Utah and Arizona State play Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014 in the Huntsman Center.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It was a defining moment in Utah’s 86-63 win over Arizona State. Just over two minutes into Sunday’s game in the Huntsman Center, Princeton Onwas decisively swatted away an attempted layup by Jahii Carson.

The third of the Utes’ 12 blocked shots in the game came in the midst of a decisive 11-0 run that erased a 2-0 deficit and led to a lopsided victory.

“Princeton’s block was a turning point,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “He really brought the emotion and it got the crowd going.”

The Utes wound up building a 27-point lead in the first half to extinguish any fire the Sun Devils may have had. The game was no closer than 13 the rest of the way.

Krystkowiak inserted Onwas and Dallin Bachynski into the starting line-up in an effort to be more physical and it paid off handsomely. The Utes raced out to a 47-20 lead and held a 51-26 advantage by halftime.

Krystkowiak said the Utes wanted to impose their will. It worked. Utah blocked a bevy of shots and grabbed a bunch of pivotal rebounds.

Contributions were plentiful. The Utes had five players finish with five or more rebounds and an equal number of guys block at least two shots. In addition, four players scored in double-figures — upping Utah’s record to 10-0 this season when doing so.

Delon Wright, who was 7 of 7 from the field, topped the individual performances with 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three blocks and three steals. Other standouts included Jordan Loveridge (18 points, six rebounds), Renan Lenz (14 points, three blocks) and Onwas (12 points).

Utah’s defense did a stellar job on ASU scoring leaders Carson (18.8 ppg) and Jermaine Marshall (15.8 ppg). They were held to a combined 15 points on 6-of-23 shooting.

“We were locked in on stopping Jahii and Jermaine. We wanted to put a lot of emphasis on the defensive end,” Krystkowiak said. “Not many teams can hold them to six field goals, but we were keyed in on doing that.”

And there was more to it.

“We just wanted to get every 50/50 ball and get rebounds as well as take charges,” Lenz said.

Utah ended up outrebounded Arizona State, 44-36, and limited the Sun Devils to 30.8 percent shooting.

Now, at 18-9 overall and 7-8 in Pac-12 play, the Utes carry some momentum into the final three games of the regular season. They host Colorado Saturday before heading to California and Stanford next week to close things out.

Although currently mired in a seventh-place tie with Washington, Krystkowiak expressed confidence that his squad could win next month’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Krystkowiak and the Utes, though, are focusing on the immediate future right now.

“We can't get ahead of ourselves. Colorado is next and then Cal and Stanford,” Lenz said. “The Pac 12 Tournament is a couple weeks away still and we have to get some more wins.”

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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