Utes vs. Falcons: Round 2

If the U basketball team even wants to think about gaining a share of the regular season MWC title this season, a win against Air Force this Saturday is imperative.

The Utes (19-6, 7-3 MWC) are two games behind the Falcons in the conference standings, and if the team loses, they will not only be out of the conference race, but they will also lose sole possession of second place in the conference.

Air Force is on its toughest road trip of the conference season. The Academy has to play Utah and then BYU, which gives the Utes a chance to tie for the conference lead if they win both of their games, and the Falcons lose both to Utah and BYU.

The Falcons have lost four games on the road this season, while the Utes have won every game at home this season. The importance of the game is obvious to both teams.

“We know how big this game is if we want to win the conference,” sophomore guard Richard Chaney said.

In their last meeting in Colorado Springs, the Utes kept close with the Falcons throughout the entire game, but the Falcons had several runs in the second half. The Ute offense was never really in sync throughout the whole game.

Utah lost 62-49 in that Jan. 26 meeting, and Chaney knows what the Utes have to do in order to have a better chance of defeating the Falcons this time around.

“We need to defend our post much better than we did last time,” Chaney said.

Air Force got 13 points from center Nick Welch in the victory and 17 from forward A.J. Kuhle, who had a lot of easy baskets down low.

Utah did well in the post with center Tim Frost, who had 13 points, but freshman Andrew Bogut only finished with four points and was a nonfactor most of the night.

Senior Nick Jacobson wasn’t on his game that night, either. Coincidence or not, it seems that the way the Utes play usually reflects Jacobson’s performance.

In the loss against Wyoming, Jacobson was 3-for-17 in an unimpressive showing. In the U’s first meeting with Air Force, he only finished with 10 points on 4 of-11 shooting.

However, poor interior defense and an off-night from its star player weren’t Utah’s only problems in the earlier loss, and other concerns remain for this weekend’s rematch.

“We also need to get after every loose ball and push it up the court to get into our offense,” Chaney said.

Point guard Tim Drisdom had an amazing game against Colorado State last Saturday, but against Wyoming he was held to just four points and the offense was shaky throughout the entire game.

Against Air Force in January, Drisdom had eight points but managed only three assists, while Falcons guard Tim Keller finished with 16 points.

But the Utes have changed their game in terms of their offensive philosophy, and players like freshman Justin Hawkins have given the team a big lift.

The unexpected mistakes that the Utes made against Wyoming need to be fixed in order for the Utes to share the conference title.

“We need everyone to step up for this game,” Chaney said. “If we do what we need to, then I have a great feeling that we can go out and win the game.”

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