Johnnie Bryant did his job Saturday — netting a game-high 22 points in Utah's 58-36 win over Air Force in the Huntsman Center.

Bryant was the only Ute to make a shot from the field over the first 22 minutes of play. The senior connected on 5-of-8 attempts — all from 3-point range — while his teammates went 0-for-6 during the stretch.

"I've never seen anything like that," said Utah coach Jim Boylen, who asked the media if they had seen such a situation before.

The unusual feat, he added, is something the Utes (9-4) will take.

"That's what he has to do," Boylen explained after the Mountain West Conference opener. "His job is to make shots."

Bryant's baskets allowed the Utes to hold a 29-23 lead at halftime. The team's other 14 points in the decisive first half all came from the free throw line.

"I really didn't know that I was the only guy. Coach told me to make open shots and that's my job," Bryant said. "I took a couple of shots that I thought should go in, but I didn't take a couple of shots and coach got on me. So I started being aggressive on the offensive end and knocked down some shots."

No other Ute made a basket until Shaun Green connected on a 3-pointer with 17:54 left to play. It was one of just six field goals made by the starters.

Bryant, a two-year starter who is now Utah's sixth man, hit eight by game's end.

"He's becoming a winning player — which is what I asked him to do," said Boylen, who moved Bryant to the bench this season because he felt the 6-footer was better suited to be a combo guard rather than a starter.

It's a role Bryant has readily accepted.

"I'm a senior and I'm going to do what's best for the team," he said. "I'm in a position where I want to win and we're winning. So I'm going to stay on the bench until they're ready to put me in."

The tri-captain is Utah's second-leading scorer with 12.4 points per game.

"I think he's a sixth man of the year, national candidate. He's gotten tougher minded. He's better defensively. He's more competitive, And he's embraced a role of coming off the bench," Boylen said. "I think when your heart is pure and you go at something and do what's best for the team it all comes back to you. It's all coming back to him because he's doing the right thing for our team, but he's also doing the right thing for him. He's raising the team up even though he's been put as a back-up."

As a result, Boylen noted, Bryant is playing a lot of minutes and finishing games.


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