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Men’s Basketball: With Duke on the horizon, Bonam “getting more comfortable” at the right time

Mens Basketball: With Duke on the horizon, Bonam getting more comfortable at the right time

Last week against Savannah State, Lorenzo Bonam may have had his best game since becoming a Ute earlier this season. Though the stat sheet doesn’t spell the entire story, Bonam was perfect against the Tigers, knocking down all six of his shot attempts for 14 points to go with his four rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

Bonam admitted to the fact that Savannah State isn’t the strongest opponent Utah has on its schedule, but the positive play is still encouraging. With each passing game, the junior looks more and more comfortable on the court, further acclimating himself with his still-fresh teammates and team system.

“It was nice to just get in the groove, get moving and get active. It felt good,” Bonam said of his performance last week.

Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak agrees with Bonam and sees one of his newest players starting to carve a niche for himself on the hardwood.

“I think that he is getting more comfortable,” Krystkowiak said. “It is all about role definition. Trying to define some roles is new for him, as well as some other guys on our squad.”

But playing teams like Savannah State serve a deeper purpose than just building up a team’s confidence and adding a tally to the win column. Instead, Utah used this game to fine-tune some of the things it has been struggling with up to this point in the year, as well as try out some new things Krystkowiak will look to implement moving forward.

Playing those games are almost just as important as, say, playing Duke in Madison Square Garden because it prepares players, like Bonam, for what they are about to face. It’s not every day games like this happen, and having a “practice game,” as Bonam would put it, just days before facing off against the Blue Devils might be just what Utah needed to pull off a potential upset.

“Those kind of games make you more comfortable to just to get a feel for it — when to relax, when to go,” Bonam said. “It’s more of like a practice game, so when games like this happen, when we play Duke, it’s just action. You’ve got to be ready — you’ve got to be with it.”

And Bonam, along with the rest of the Utah guards, will definitely need to be with it come tip-off on Saturday, as Duke is led by a bevy of high-caliber guards. Grayson Allen didn’t do much against the Utes last season in Houston — shooting just 1-for-4 in nine minutes of play — but the sophomore guard has been a superstar since for Duke.

In the Blue Devils’ run to the national championship last season, Allen was a huge part of that success with a seemingly out-of-nowhere 16-point effort in the title game against Wisconsin. And now in a new season, Allen is currently averaging 21.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game to help lead Duke to a 9-1 start to the young campaign, with its only loss coming at the hands of Kentucky.

Throw in veteran Matt Jones and five-star recruits Derryck Thornton and Luke Kennard, and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has his pick when it comes to who he wants to take on the ball-handling responsibilities at any point in a game.

But despite all of the big names and elite talent that the Blue Devils boast, Bonam is confident that with a stingy front, the Runnin’ Utes can bring the pressure to them, rather than vice versa.

“We’re going to try to slow and them down with defense,” Bonam said. “Just try to alter everything a little bit. We’re going to try and stop their transition game and stop their main players from going off and get what they want to go. We are really just going to push it out of their hands and deny them, just get in them a little bit.”

He wasn’t around last season for the six-point defeat that sent Utah home in the Sweet 16, but the Ute newcomer is looking to get some revenge for his teammates.

“Last year, [Utah] lost to them,” Bonam said. “We are going to play hard, and we are going to beat them this year.”

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