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Utah upsets No. 11 Air Force, snaps 13-game winning streak

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The way Utah was shooting, no winning streak was safe.

The Utes ended Air Force's (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today; No. 13 AP) 13-game winning streak by shooting 70.7 percent in their 85-79 upset of the Falcons on Tuesday night.

Utah won for the first time in nearly a month and stopped a six-game losing streak, the school's longest slide since 1950.

"It really wouldn't have mattered who it was tonight. We needed to find a way to get a win. It just happened to be Air Force," Utah coach Ray Giacoletti said.

Luke Nevill had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Johnnie Bryant scored 18 points for the Utes, who shot 68 percent in the first half and then topped that off with an even better performance over the final 20 minutes.

"We just all stayed together," said Utah's Shaun Green, who had 15 points and was one of five Utes to score in double figures.

Utah (6-12, 1-4 Mountain West) made 11 straight free throws down the stretch to hold off every rally the Falcons (17-2, 4-1) attempted. When it was finally over, Bryant heaved the ball straight up in the air and celebrated Utah's first victory since Dec. 20.

"I'm just happy for these kids that we could kind of get it off our back and hopefully get a good roll started," Giacoletti said.

Air Force was tied with No. 2 Wisconsin for the longest winning streak in Division I, but the Falcons never led Tuesday night.

"The last three games, including this one, we have gotten off to horrendous starts," Air Force coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "We must understand that we will take everybody's best punch. We have not understood that yet and it caught up with us today."

Jacob Burtschi had 21 points and Dan Nwaelele added 20 for the Falcons, who didn't have enough to overcome Utah's almost-perfect shooting.

After Nwaelele got the Falcons within 78-72 on a layup, Ricky Johns made two free throws with a minute left, then the Utes broke the press and got the ball to Nevill for a two-handed dunk that all but sealed it.

"We can score pretty much all the time whenever we need to. It was pretty much a matter of stopping them from scoring," Nevill said after his seventh double-double of the season.

It was Air Force's first loss since Nov. 10, when Duke beat the Falcons 71-56. The winning streak was tied for the longest in school history.

Utah committed 13 turnovers in the first half, but compensated by going 13-for-19 from the field -- 5-of-8 on 3-pointers -- and holding the Falcons to 36 percent shooting. The Utes were even better in the second half, going 16-for-22. When Nevill wasn't getting an easy dunk or layup, the Utes were passing the ball around the perimeter and keeping the Falcons scrambling.

"The key is, they've got to come help or double and if you make a couple extra passes somebody's going to shoot an open look," Giacoletti said. "There's a big difference between shooting the ball with a hand in your face and an open look."

Air Force added a couple of late 3s to make it closer at the end, but didn't have the time to complete another comeback like the Falcons did Saturday in a 58-56 win at Wyoming on a buzzer-beater by Burtschi.

Air Force, which shot 48 percent, scored three points on five straight possessions late in the second half, getting either a 3-pointer or three-point play. But each time the Falcons made a run Utah did just enough to hold them off.

Bryant and Green each hit 3-pointers after Air Force had gotten within five points and the Utes were able to seal it from the line after the Falcons had to foul at the end.