(14) Utah 65

(23-3, 11-0 MW)

Air Force 56

(15-10, 6-4 MW)

    3:00 PM ET, February 19, 2005

    Clune Arena, Colorado Springs, Colorado

    1 2 T
    #14UTAH 26 3965
    AFA 32 2456

    Top Performers

    Utah: A. Bogut 23 Pts, 9 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Blk

    Air Force: N. Welch 15 Pts, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk

    Bogut scores 20 of his 23 in second half

    AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- The winning streak marches on and the conference title belongs to Utah. Pretty soon, it will be tournament time and the Utes look like a team that could do some damage there, as well.

    Andrew Bogut scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half Saturday to lead Utah (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) to its 18th straight victory, a 65-56 win over Air Force that clinched the Mountain West Conference championship.

    "To have a day where you accomplish the main goal of your season, I'd say it ranks right up there at the top," first-year Utes coach Ray Giacoletti said.

    In what may have been the most impressive win of the streak, which began Dec. 17, the Utes (23-3, 11-0) snapped Air Force's 24-game home winning streak. They need three more wins to become the first team to run the table in the 6-year-old MWC. Either way, they are well on track for their 26th NCAA Tournament appearance.

    "Our number-one goal was winning a conference championship," Giacoletti said. "We said if we do that, we'll stop and put another goal on the table. We'll probably have a chance to look at that tomorrow."

    Air Force (15-10, 6-4), ranked 104 in the latest RPI ratings, lost a chance at a quality victory it dearly needed to make the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. The Falcons, who came in with a half-game lead over Wyoming for second place, now fight for seeding for the conference tournament, which they very well may have to win to head back to the NCAAs.

    "Right now, the postseason isn't necessarily important to us," first-year coach Chris Mooney said. "We've just got to concentrate on (Monday's opponent) BYU and the road trip" that follows.

    Jacob Burtschi had 15 points for the Falcons, but they all came in the first half, before Utah's defense firmed up and Bogut started taking over on both ends of the floor.

    The 7-foot Australia native came one rebound short of padding his nation-leading total of 17 double-doubles. He scored eight points during a 10-0 run that gave Utah a 36-32 lead and set the tone to open the second half.

    The Utes stayed more patient in getting him the ball, and when they did, Bogut typically had his defender sealed and made an easy spin move for a bucket.

    "It's very frustrating," Mooney said. "You're not going to hold him to six points, we realize that. But when the ball got into him, it was too easy."

    On defense, meanwhile, Bogut altered shots and generally frustrated Air Force, which by using its typical slowdown style, played right into the big man's hands.

    Trailing 53-45 with about 2 minutes left, Bogut altered Nick Welch's shot, then blocked Dan Nwaelele's attempt after the rebound -- a typical sequence for the Utes, who allowed only three field goals over the first 15 minutes of the second half.

    "I haven't been part of a team that's played this kind of team defense before," guard Marc Jackson said. "That's why we've had this kind of success."

    Bryant Markson scored 15 points and Jackson had 12 for Utah, which has the second-longest winning streak in the nation, behind only top-ranked Illinois (27 straight).

    Welch also had 15 points for the Falcons, whose last home loss came March 3, 2003, to Utah.

    Utah shot 29 free throws to only three for Air Force. Although many of Utah's free throws came while Air Force was playing catch-up late, Mooney was understandably miffed.

    "I have no idea," he said. "I thought we had a good crew. It's just disappointing we could only get to the free throw line three times."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 65 56
    FG Made-Attempted 21-37 (.568) 22-53 (.415)
    3P Made-Attempted 3-5 (.600) 10-25 (.400)
    FT Made-Attempted 20-29 (.690) 2-3 (.667)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 11 (0/0) 22 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 12 11

    2004-05 Season

    Jan 24, 2005 @UTAH 63, AFA 51Recap
    » Feb 19, 2005 UTAH 65, @AFA 56Recap