"Defense is certainly something you can hang your hat on," coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "It's something that can get you through the bad times when you struggle to make shots."
Thursday's 78-69 win over Washington at the Huntsman Center provides ample proof of this. Utah played so bad offensively at times in the first half, it was a wonder how the Huskies didn't blow to a double-digit lead. Yet, at the half, the Utes were up 31-30.
For a while in the second half, C.J. Wilcox put on a show for Washington, hitting seemingly every shot he put up. Yet, by the end of the game, Wilcox's offense was reduced to wild forays through the lane, hoping his shot would fall through outstretched arms belonging to Dallin Bachynski and Jordan Loveridge.
Most of all, Krystkowiak sacrificed offense for the defense of Princeton Onwas, who came in, played 25 minutes and made life difficult for Wilcox, a native of Pleasant Grove. Onwas' seven points and four rebounds were nice. But his true value on Thursday night rested in his ability to contain one of the best scorers in the conference.
"That's what Princeton likes to do," Krystkowiak said. "He's big, he's athletic and he looks the part. He came to the Pac-12 because he wanted to defend great players."
The game was blown open thanks to 13 consecutive Utah points. It turned a 51-49 deficit into a 62-51 advantage. The Utes earned that spurt with 10 consecutive stops. Overall, they limited Washington to 43 percent shooting from the field. Andrew Andrews killed Utah a few weeks ago in Seattle. He went 1-12 on Thursday night. They took away Perris Blackwell and his inside presence with Bachynski and Jeremy Olsen.
"We did a good job of making it tough on them at times," Loveridge said. "It helped us make a run when we needed to."