Game Preview: Utah vs Air Force

The Utes look to break a two game losing streak against the Falcons...

Facts and Factors

The Utah men's basketball team (10-12, 3-5 MWC) begins its second run through the Mountain West Conference schedule Saturday as the Utes host Air Force. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m. MT and the the game will be televised live on The Mtn.

Utah will be looking to bounce back from its second straight setback, most recently falling at UNLV, 67-54, on its worst shooting night of the season. Junior wing Will Clyburn got his eighth double-double of the year in the loss, scoring 17 points and collecting 12 rebounds. Junior guard Josh "Jiggy" Watkins added 15 points while freshman wing J.J. O'Brien was one point short of a double-double, recording nine points and 10 rebounds.

Clyburn remains Utah's leading scorer and rebounder at 18.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, ranking No. 2 in the MWC in each category. Watkins is leading the Utes in assists with 3.3 per game, while junior center David Foster leads the MWC in blocks, with 3.0 per contest.

Air Force is coming off a 75-61 home loss to New Mexico, which followed a 66-65 overtime win on the road at TCU.

The Falcons' top scorer is Michael Lyons, who pours in 13.0 points per game. Evan Washington is their leading rebounder and top assist man, averaging 4.6 boards and 3.9 helpers per contest.

In the first meeting between the two squads this season, Utah fell by a 77-69 score at Clune Arena in Colorado Springs. Junior guard Chris Kupets was Utah's leading scorer in the game with a career-high 25 points, while Lyons led the Falcons with 26. The loss snapped a run of six consecutive wins for the Utes in the series. Utah holds an all-time record of 49-13 against AF, including a 28-3 mark at home.

Utah head coach Jim Boylen, now in his fourth year at the helm for the Utes, owns a 66-54 (.550) record. Air Force is coached by Jeff Reynolds, also in his fourth season, with a record of 48-65 (.425).

The Game

The Utes did not play well in the loss to UNLV, unable to put the ball in the hoop in knocking down under 30% from the field. The lack of a third consistent scoring option behind Will Clyburn and Jiggy Watkins has significantly hurt the Utes in their losses. J.J. O'Brien has been pretty good since returning form injury, but the Utes are going to need more double digit scoring games out of him if they want to finish the season strong.

The scoring out of the center position has to be better. Washburn and Foster had a total of 2 points in 38 minutes against the Rebels. When the don't have some sort of scoring presence inside, it makes it that much more difficult to get the perimeter players going.

Air Force hasn't been great since their conference opening win against the Utes, but did pull off a road win against TCU last weekend.

The Falcons are going to go as Michael Lyons goes. Their all everything guard put up 26 in the first game of the conference sesaon against the Utes, aided in part by a career high 11 assists from Evan Washington.

If the Utes can hold Lyons in check and keep Air Force from knocking down, their threes, they should win this game. Otherwise, Jim Boylen can start packing up his office.

Prediction

This is the matchup the Utes need right now to stop the bleeding and get back on track. The Utes may have been beaten by the Falcons, but they're still the better team. We say it every game, but the consistency of Will Clyburn and his 20 points is something we can count on. The Utes will buckle down and keep the Falcons from putting up too many points taking a double digit halftime and never really being threatened in the second half.

Utah 71 Air Force 60

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