Utah Utes Basketball: Onwas vs. Tucker Round 2

Utah's Princeton Onwas drives to the hoop as Utah and Ball State play Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 in the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Coach Larry Krystkowiak finally did it. He started Princeton Onwas in the Runnin’ Utes’ last game. After starting Dakarai Tucker in all the games up to this point some fans may be surprised. Other fans may be asking what’s wrong with Dakarai. For me, it was just a matter of time. Let me tell you why.

To be honest it really came down to one thing that Larry Krystkowiak said in the post game after beating Ball State. Coach Krystkowiak said, “We want to be the Runnin’ Utes and it starts on the defensive end.” On the quest to being the Runnin’ Utes again, the players need to play aggressively on offense, defense, and specifically on rebounding.

Offensive style of play is a big difference between Dakarai Tucker and Princeton Onwas. Onwas is more aggressive and always seems to be attacking. On the fast break he will attack the rim every time, leading to one of the growing number of dunks and highlights he has. On the other hand, Tucker drifts to the three point line to provide a kick out option. Sadly, Dakarai’s three point percentage is the third worst on the team. Look at free throw attempts and the difference in style of play is even more apparent: Tucker 2 fta, Onwas 19 fta. Onwas’ free throw attempts paint a picture of going to the hoop and initiating contact while Tucker runs around the three point line.

I don’t know that I need to talk too much about defensive differences as Coach Larry Krystkowiak clearly thinks Onwas is the better defender.

We shuffled the starting lineup tonight but this isn’t permanent. We wanted to have a better defensive matchup.

This defensive difference is key to showing who will be playing the most minutes. Krystkowiak loved Cedric Martin last year for his defensive toughness and ability to shutdown the other teams best scorer. If he thinks Onwas is up to being that kind of contributor on defense and can continue to play the level of offense he has shown in the last three games, there is no decision to be made about playing time. Onwas will play.

Creating turnovers is critical to a fast transition game and the Utes are averaging 15 points off of turnovers per game. However the other part of defense that starts fast breaks is rebounding. A defensive rebound with two passes can easily become a dunk on the other end. Onwas is doubling Tucker up in rebounds right now. Onwas is averaging 10 rebound per 40 minutes while Tucker is only averaging 5 rebounds per 40 minutes.  More rebounds = More transition points = The Runnin’ Utes are back.

In addition to the above, Onwas’ player efficiency rating (PER) is substantially higher. Onwas has a PER of 23.2 vs Tucker’s 13.8 PER. As 15 PER is supposed to be average, Onwas is the way to go. Sadly, Tucker’s PER is good for 13th of the 14 players on the Utes’ roster. Last season that would have been better than Brandon Taylor and 8th on the team. However, this year the team is deeper and more talented. In regards to who was going to start Onwas vs. Tucker? It was just a matter of time.

About the author

Grant Bagby

Since moving to Utah in 2005, I have changed from following all sports in D.C/Virginia to following all sports in Utah. I am a Chicago Bulls fan first (Born and raised by my father), but I am also a hardcore Jazz fan with 7 years of being a season ticket holder under my belt. I started TornBySports to write about the BYU/Utah Rivalry after Max Hall ran his mouth.