Lights out

The No. 25 Utes came into the night holding a national ranking for the first time in two years.

They made sure it wouldn’t be one week and out, as the Utes took care of business 63-51 over Air Force in the Huntsman Center Monday night.

“I take my heart out to my guys,” Ute coach Ray Giacoletti said, impressed that his team managed to stop the defending regular-season MWC champs. “I can’t think of a harder team to prepare for.”

While the final score doesn’t show it was a blowout, the Utes shot a school record 80 percent from the field, missing only six shots all evening.

“Right now we are just having fun and winning,” Ute forward Bryant Markson said, following an 11-point outing. “That’s what we will try to do the rest of the season.”

The Utes (17-3, 5-0 Mountain West Conference) now stand atop the MWC, knocking the Falcons (12-7, 3-1) off their perfect conference record perch.

Andrew Bogut was once again the leading scorer for the U, putting in 25 points to go along with nine rebounds.

The Falcons were the only MWC team to knock off the Utes at home last season, so Giacoletti knew his team needed no extra incentive.

“[The Utes] were very aware of what happened last year,” Giacoletti said. “[The coaches] didn’t need to get their attention.”

The Utes exploded to start the second half, breaking up a close 32-20 score with a 14-2 run.

Bryant Markson led off the half with a reverse dunk, and with the crowd behind them, the Utes reeled off several big baskets, including three-pointers by both Markson and Tim Drisdom.

By the time Air Force could stop the bleeding with a three of its own, it was too late. The Ute lead had grown to 15 and the Falcons couldn’t hit consistently enough from outside to get back in the game.

The Utes did encounter one speed bump early on: Bogut had a tough time getting going. The 7 footer was constantly hounded down low throughout the game, often drawing double and triple teams.

The tactic worked for a while, as Bogut stepped out of bounds, got the ball stolen and missed shots under pressure. He wouldn’t get his first bucket until he made a layup six minutes into the game.

Eventually, the Utes would learn to box out the speedy but small Falcons, allowing Bogut to finish the first half with 15 points. The national leader in rebounding was, however, held to only one rebound in the first period.

What started out as a back and forth game turned to the Utes’ favor when Bogut came alive offensively. A 9-3 run midway through the first half gave the Utes a 26-18 lead, which they would eventually extend to 32-21.

Unfortunately for the U, Air Force was waiting with a rally of its own. The Falcons used seven points from Nick Welch to pace them to a 9-0 run to end the first half.

The Utes have at least another week to stay on top of the MWC. Their next game isn’t until next Monday when they head to Provo for a 10 p.m. ESPN game at BYU.

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