Shot down

Ute head coach Ray Giacoletti was nervous about the Runnin’ Utes being able to have success against a tough, determined Air Force team.

He was right.

The Falcons (16-2, 4-1 MWC) jumped on Utah (8-8, 1-4) from the outset and cruised to a 66-44 win in Thursday’s nationally televised contest. In the road losses leading up to Thursday it appeared that the Utes were starting to come around, but it was quickly obvious it was not to be on this night, as the Falcons gave the Utes their fourth loss of more than 20 points this season.

It was Air Force’s 37th win in their last 38 at home and kept them tied with UNLV and San Diego State atop the MWC.

The loss drops the Utes to one spot away from the conference cellar, just in front of TCU, which has yet to win a MWC game. The depth of their ranking is uncharted water for the Utes, who have won 11 regular-season titles in the last 15 years.

As has been their custom this season, the Utes were bedeviled by turnovers all night against a pressing Falcon defense, committing 20 for the game.

But even though Air Force quickly got into their rhythm-at one point hitting eight shots in a row early in the first half and finishing the game with a 68 percent shooting percentage-the Utes still found themselves somewhat within striking distance at halftime, only trailing by 10, 33-23.

That little bit of momentum quickly evaporated in period two, as Ute mistakes combined with a Falcon team feeding off of the vocal Clune Arena crowd doomed Giacoletti’s team. A 14-0 run pushed the Falcon lead to an insurmountable margin, leaving them with their first 4-game losing streak since 1990-Rick Majerus’ first season.

Freshman center Luke Nevill led the Utes in scoring and rebounding, finishing with nine points and five boards. Senior guard Casey Iverson came off the bench to notch a career high in points with eight, hitting two three-pointers late in the game.

Now toting 1-5 road record, the Utes will get a bit of a respite when they return to Salt Lake City for two straight games at the Huntsman Center. The home swing starts on Saturday when the Utes entertain UNLV (8-7, 2-1) at 7 p.m. The following Saturday TCU (4-14, 0-4) visits at 1 p.m.

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