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Art of the charge: Montana's Kyle Owens mastering one of basketball's hustle plays

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Kyle Owens
Posted at 5:32 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 13:48:53-05

MISSOULA — It's starting to become clockwork.

"Offensive foul (insert team name here)," can be heard over the University of Montana public address speaker as sophomore Kyle Owens gets up from the floor with teammates celebrating around him.

In just his second season in a Montana Griz men's basketball uniform, Owens has slowly become a master of one of basketball's most important hustle plays on defense: taking a charge.

In 13 games for the Griz, Owens has racked up 13 taken charges this season per stats from UM Voice of the Griz Riley Corcoran and basketball manager Ryan Clark. In four games, Owens has taken more than one charge, including three against Washington and two each versus USC, the first matchup with Northern Colorado and the second game against Southern Utah. More remarkably, all 13 drawn charges have come in just eight contests.

"Just in general, can kind of feel out when to take the charge, when not to," Owens said after Montana's win over Northern Arizona on Jan. 14.

He added jokingly, "Kind of just a feel thing, Josh (Vazquez) has taken a few also, learning from me. I think once he sees me take a few, he's like, 'I think I have to get one now, I'm going to go try and get one,'" as Vazquez laughed.

"I give him little pointers here and there so that's why he gets the confidence to do it," Vazquez responded.

Timing and reading the offense is key in taking charges, defensive stops that can often swing momentum from one team to another. Drawing one is not easy, as the defender has to pick the right spot and moment to plant himself on the floor and establish position, while also sometimes preparing for a big collision with the offensive player.

If successful, the result is a foul and turnover in the moment, and sometimes can force players to become leery from driving hard into the paint from fear of getting whistled for another offensive foul.

According to Owens and UM coach Travis DeCuire, taking charges is something Owens has been keen to do since he was in high school in Calabasas, California.

"I've been doing it since high school too," Owens said. "Just timing it and reading the guy with the ball whether he's going to jump to pass or jump to shoot it. It's all just feel for it."

"He might've taken just as many charges last year too," DeCuire added. "When we recruited him that was something that stood out. He's always done a good job of being at the rim and rotating and giving his body up in those areas, so that's a strength of his and something we count on from game to game."

The 6-foot-8 forward is a budding star and has seen his playing time almost double from a year ago when he was thrown into the fire as a true freshman along with Vazquez and Derrick Carter-Hollinger. Having started every game since Montana's first matchup with Southern Utah, Owens is averaging 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game while shooting at a 44% clip from the field and 36.4% mark from deep.

His impact has been all over the court for UM, but the charges he keeps taking stand out and are leaving a lasting impact for his team as the Griz (6-7, 2-4 Big Sky) hit the road this weekend for games against Sacramento State (5-2, 3-1 Big Sky) on Thursday and Saturday.

"Anytime someone gives up their body and takes that type of contact it tends to be fairly contagious," DeCuire said. "You want to give your best effort when your teammate is making plays like that."