Downward spiral

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

After yet another close loss coming at the hands of New Mexico last weekend, the U men’s basketball team (5-12, 0-4 MWC) is having a bit of a confidence problem.

“I don’t know what our deal is right now,” U forward Shaun Green said. “Most of the games we lose are close, but we just can’t finish them-and after six straight losses, it wears on you.”

The most recent of the losses came at the hands of the Lobos Saturday night, as a late Utes’ rally wasn’t enough and they fell in overtime.

The Runnin’ Utes rallied back from a 15-point deficit and tied the game on a Curtis Eatmon foul shot with 41 seconds left. After a defensive stop, Utah had the chance to win, but shots from Johnnie Bryant and Shaun Green couldn’t find their mark and the game went to overtime.

The Lobos regained momentum early in the period with the aid of a pair of J.R. Giddens baskets, and with a Daniel Faris layup, the game was all but over. The final score: 86-82.

“Our effort was pretty darn good tonight,” U head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “I was pleased with how we handled ourselves, but we need to find a way to win down the stretch.”

Johnnie Bryant led the Utes on the night with 19 points, six of which came in overtime. Meanwhile, the hot-handed Green was held scoreless in the first half before erupting for 14 points and four three-pointers.

“We know we’re a good basketball team,” Green said. “It’s just the little things that are killing us. We won’t get a rebound or make a stop at the end, and that’s where you have to win ballgames.”

The Utes don’t have too much time to dwell on the New Mexico nail-biter, though. They have a chance to bounce back tonight when they play host to No. 11 Air Force at the Huntsman Center.

The Falcons (17-1, 4-0 MWC) are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Utes. They have won 13 consecutive games on their way to a national ranking, and their only loss came at the hands of perennial powerhouse Duke.

“(Air Force) is always a tough team to play against, and this time will be no exception,” U center Luke Nevill said. “The toughest thing about them is that they don’t have a certain player to focus on.”

With no particular player to key on, the Falcons’ unique offense has caused considerable damage to opponents this year. Five Air Force players are averaging more than 9.8 points per game in the Princeton-style offensive attack coach Jeff Bzdelik enforces.

Utah should be fairly familiar with the offensive style of the Falcons tonight, as it was also used against them earlier this year when they were shellacked by Northwestern, 77-44.

“The last time we faced that offense, it didn’t end up that well,” Nevill said. “But we’ve been working against it in practice through various drills, so I think we’re ready this time.”

Dan Nwaelele leads the team from his forward position with 15.1 points-per-game while shooting a whopping 51 percent from behind the three-point line.

The Falcons’ play has been unparalleled lately, with huge comeback wins against New Mexico, Colorado State and Wyoming placing them in the upper echelon of college basketball.

“A win against a ranked team like Air Force would boost our confidence level quite a bit,” Green said. “We know we can compete with anyone. We just have to find a way to finish games.”