Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob 'The Wise Owl' Miech discuss UNLV's slim 75-74 victory over BYU on Saturday night at the Mack, fueled by the super-sub efforts of Kendall Wallace and Mo Rutledge, plus the Rebels' largest home crowd since 1993. Also, an unfriendly welcome for Mrs. Cummard and where the up-and-down Rebels go from here.
Beyond the Sun
- Salt Lake Tribune: Cougars come up short in Vegas
With one of the best home records during the past four years in NCAA hoops, including a 53-game winning streak at the Marriott Center, of course BYU would rather play in the safe and sound environment of Provo than in the hostile conditions of other Mountain West Conference gyms.
That said, not all hostile conditions are created equal.
It's getting safe to say that, when the chips are down, the Cougars would probably rather be anywhere else than in the Thomas & Mack Center. Saturday's 75-74 loss before a sellout crowd marked the sixth consecutive time the Cougars have fallen to UNLV on that floor, a stretch that dates back to Feb. 5, 2005.
Ranked No. 2 in the attendance in the MWC, UNLV is known around the league as unfriendly territory. But according to Wink Adams, Rebel fans save their worst for the Cougars.
"It's amazing whenever they come to town," Adams said. "Ever since I've been here it seems like the fans get extra hyped when we play them here and I still, to this day, do not even understand why. Tonight was the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of here and once those fans get into it, that can play a pretty big factor."
Adams' statement isn't a reach. The crowd of 18,523 marked UNLV's first sellout since Jan. 23, 1993, when a game against Georgetown drew 18,723.
The previous high during the Lon Kruger era was 18,069 on Senior Day on March 3, 2007.
BYU sophomore guard Jimmer Fredette, for one, was surprised to hear the drought had lasted that long.
"It does, actually -- I did not know that," he said. "I figured that UNLV basketball, it's very, very big and they'd have a lot of sellouts. But I guess it's a compliment to have everyone come out and want to watch these two teams go at it. It was definitely a great atmosphere tonight and it was a lot of fun to play in."
Adding to the general frustration, though, is that BYU has a tendency to meet up with UNLV on the road in big-time situations. After being crowned the regular season champions the past two seasons, the Cougars have been bounced by UNLV in the MWC Tournament both times in the championship game.
While a win on Saturday would have given them sole possession of second place in the conference, the loss placed BYU in a three-way tie for the No. 2 spot, with upcoming games against San Diego State and Utah.
Counting a 76-70 loss to UNLV in Provo earlier this year, the first time either team has swept a regular season series since the Cougars did it in the 2003-04 season, the Rebels have been the thorn in BYU's side.
"It's definitely one that we needed to make up for, that loss earlier in the year," said BYU senior Lee Cummard, who scored a team-high 20 points. "Tonight was that opportunity and we didn't take advantage of it. We feel like we can beat anybody in the country no matter who it is or where the game is played, that's the attitude we have.
"It's tough though, it seems like it's always the same thing every year. We're playing well, we're playing well, then they get that spurt and the crowd gets into it and we can't get over it."
With just two weeks of reguar season play left on the schedule, conference tourney time in Las Vegas lies right ahead. Seeing as how they've met each other in the finals the past two seasons, another Thomas & Mack run-in could be in store.
At least one Cougar senior, Cummard, is neverminding the past and actually hoping he gets one final shot at the Rebels on their own floor.
"You couldn't ask for a better college environment than tonight, I just wish it would have turned out different," Cummard said. "I would love to play them here again and finally get over that hump."