Air Force’s bid at the longest winning streak in school history ended with a loss at Utah last month. The 17th-ranked Falcons look to avenge that defeat and continue to get back on track when they host the Utes on Wednesday.
Air Force (21-4, 8-3 Mountain West) tied a school record with 13 consecutive wins from Nov. 21-Jan. 13, but lost its next game, 85-79 at Utah on Jan. 16. The Falcons were held to 21 points in the first half and couldn’t slow the Utes as they shot 70.7 percent from the field.
Jacob Burtschi (21 points), Dan Nwaelele (20) and Matt McCraw (19) all scored in double figures for Air Force in that contest, while Luke Nevill led Utah (9-14, 4-6) with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
That was the first of three defeats in six games for the Falcons, but they regained some momentum with a 60-51 victory at New Mexico on Saturday. Air Force again got off to a rocky start by missing nine of its first 10 shots and trailed by 10 points in the first half, but outscored the Lobos 41-28 after the break.
The Falcons held New Mexico to 32.1 percent shooting to bounce back after losing two of their previous three contests.
“Even good teams are going to struggle,” said Burtschi, who had 15 points and seven rebounds. “We put those three games behind us and it’s a chance to start over. We came in here and got a big win.”
Nwaelele, who leads the Falcons with 14.6 points per game, scored 17 Saturday to rebound from a season-low two points in a 62-41 loss at San Diego State on Feb. 6. Tim Anderson added 17 points for just his fourth double-digit performance in the last 15 games.
“We lost focus in a few games, relaxed and got complacent,” Anderson said. “When we bring energy and execution on offense, we can beat anyone.”
The Falcons have been beating everyone at home, going 11-0 there this season and winning by an average margin of 23.2 points. They have the nation’s longest home winning streak at 28 following Gonzaga’s 84-73 loss to Santa Clara on Monday.
Utah is just 1-7 on the road, but has won four of its last six overall. The Utes had another strong shooting performance last Wednesday in an 82-77 win over Colorado State, hitting 53.8 percent from the floor and going 8-for-14 from 3-point range.
After scoring 28 points in the first half, Utah outscored the Rams 54-42 in the second.
“We got a big speech at halftime from the assistant coaches, and we basically looked each other in the eye and just said ‘let’s go out and play as hard as possible,’” said forward Shaun Green, who scored 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting. “We came out and played defense—I think one of the best halves we’ve ever played effort wise—and it just worked out for us.”
Nevill, who leads Utah with 17.1 points per game, scored 18 against Colorado State while second-leading scorer Johnnie Bryant added 17 points and seven assists.
Utah is 43-11 in the all-time series between these teams.