Bogut’s back?but so is heartbreak (Men’s Hoops)

While Andrew Bogut was lauded at halftime for his numerous Ute accomplishments, the current Utes lived up to what has come to be expected this season-close, but no cigar.

For the second-straight game, the Utes (12-12, 5-8 MWC) had a chance in their final possession, but for the second-straight game they came away with a loss: They fell 52-51 to Air Force (21-5, 9-4 MWC) Saturday night at the Huntsman Center.

A missed free-throw, some lax defense and a big three-pointer burned the Utes down the stretch, as they fell to the Falcons for the second time this season.

“We need to find a better way to get stops,” Ute head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “We have focused on not giving up threes, and this is the second night we have done that.”

With a minute left in a topsy-turvy game that featured 12 lead changes, the Utes found themselves trailing by one point. But U center Luke Nevill-who scored a career-high 21 points on his mentor’s big night-came through in the clutch. Nevill caught a Bryant Markson pass in the low post and was fouled as he made a layup. The freshman sank the free throw, giving the Utes a two-point lead with 52 seconds left.

The Falcons came down and guard Matt McCraw clanked a jumper off the rim. Ute forward Shaun Green got the rebound and was quickly fouled, allowing Ute fans to let out a sigh of relief; it seemed that the U would manage to escape with a win over the vaunted Falcons.

Not so fast. Green missed the front end of his 1-and-1, setting up a cringe-worthy finale.

The Falcons brought the ball down quickly, and senior forward Jacob Burtschi nailed a deep 3-pointer for the lead with 18 seconds left.

Ute guard Johnnie Bryant attempted an off-balance shot with one second left after dribbling around the perimeter, but the shot bounced high off the rim, and the Falcons walked off the court with the win.

“I tried to make a play at the end and was unsuccessful,” Bryant said. “I’m going to learn from this mistake and move on. It doesn’t matter about how the last play went; it comes down to us allowing them to hit bucket after bucket.”

The Utes honored Bogut during a halftime ceremony, which saw his No. 4 unfurled along with six other Ute legends. A career highlight video was shown, followed by a speech by Athletics Director Chris Hill and a speech from Bogut himself. The 2005 consensus-player-of-the-year spoke of how emotional the event was and how he made the transition from Australia to Utah.

“The first day I was here I had about six people ask me to have dinner with their families,” Bogut told the crowd. “That’s a memory that will always stay with me.”

The event was further highlighted by appearances from fellow jersey retirees Billy McGill, Danny Vranes and Arnie Ferrin, all of whom were shown on the video screen during halftime.

The Utes now head to Las Vegas for a duel with UNLV on Wednesday.

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