Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009 | 9:12 p.m.
Final, UNLV wins, 76-70
PROVO, Utah -- As Jimmer Fredette hit a 3-pointer to send BYU into the halftime locker room with a 43-30 lead, the Rebels appeared to be truly up against it.
To that point, they'd been outrebounded 21-12 and BYU was scoring at will, keeping UNLV from making anything that resembled a comeback.
A near-perfect second half was needed, and that's just what UNLV provided, as they won at the Marriott Center for the first time since Lon Kruger's first season at the helm, 76-70, on Wednesday night.
UNLV outrebounded BYU in the second half, 25-12, and held BYU to 7-of-31 shooting, as the Rebels move to 3-2 in league play and 15-4 overall. It was the second consecutive loss for BYU, who drops to 2-2 in the MWC, and their second home loss of the season in one of college basketball's toughest venues.
BYU star Lee Cummard was held scoreless in the second half, while UNLV senior Wink Adams led all scorers with 22 points -- 16 of those came after the break.
Tre'Von Willis scored 13 for the Rebels, while Darris Santee chipped in 11. UNLV hit 10 of 11 free throw attempts down the stretch to hold off BYU's lone second half push. The Cougars were only 7-of-31 from the floor after the half.
Jonathan Tavernari led BYU with 21 points, while Jimmer Fredette scored 19.
UNLV is back in action against Utah on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center.
For full postgame coverage, including photos, video, stats, stories and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
1:32, second half, UNLV leads 68-63
PROVO, Utah -- After a huge hustle save by René Rougeau, Wink Adams hit a deep two from the right wing to give him 19 points on the night. From there, it's been a free throw battle, and both Oscar Bellfield and Joe Darger hit two apiece, keeping UNLV ahead by two possessions with just over a minute to play at the Marriott Center.
3:59, second half, UNLV leads 61-56
PROVO, Utah -- The game went into its final media timeout of regulation after Wink Adams was called for a travel on a second-chance opportunity underneath the hoop. The UNLV bench erupted in displeasure, wanting a foul call, but the Rebels can hardly afford to take themselves out of this one mentally right now.
The half-capacity crowd in the Marriott Center is rocking, and BYU is finally finding something that resembles offensive production in the second half. Still, situation being what it is, UNLV is in a great spot to win in Provo for the first time since Lon Kruger's first season.
Four of the five starters will be on the floor for UNLV, with Oscar Bellfield taking Darris Santee's place. I would have to guess for ballhandling under pressure.
6:59, second half, UNLV leads 57-50
PROVO, Utah -- UNLV continues to stymie BYU's offense in the second half, and the best thing the Rebels have going for them is that they have yet to let their feet off the gas.
To this point, BYU, who splintered to a 43-point first half, has 7 points in 13 minutes on 1-of-12 shooting, while UNLV holds a second half rebounding edge of 17-4.
Gotta give credit to UNLV's second-teamers, who bided the time until Lon Kruger could put some more of the starters back on the floor for the stretch run. Wink Adams and Darris Santee just came back out on the floor for what you'd have to assume would be the rest of the night.
11:13, second half, UNLV leads 50-48
PROVO, Utah -- Brice Massamba collected his second rebound of the game off of a Tre'Von Willis miss, softly laid it back in off the glass and put UNLV ahead 50-48, making it a 20-5 run in the Rebels' favor to start the second half.
The starters stayed in until nearly the 13-minute mark, before Kendall Wallace and Brice Massamba checked in for second half sparkplugs Wink Adams and Darris Santee, respectively. And UNLV has yet to miss a beat, which means this entire team believes right now that a win here is possible.
The biggest difference so far in this half is in the rebounding and offensive efficiency. The Rebels, who were outrebounded in the first half 21-12, are winning that battle mid-way through the second half, 12-3. BYU, meanwhile, is just 1-of-10 from the floor.
15:22, second half, BYU leads 46-42
PROVO, Utah -- If a near-perfect second half is what UNLV needed to get back into this one, they've at least got the near-perfect start to the second half behind them.
The Rebels have already outrebounded the Cougars 7-2 in the second half, and as a result have piled up inside points. Darris Santee and Wink Adams each have tough inside buckets, and each has also earned a trip to the free throw line. Add in a René Rougeau mid-range jumper for his first points of the game and a Joe Darger three off a great dish from Tre'Von Willis, and UNLV is right back in the mix.
All BYU has mustered so far this half on offense is a Jackson Emery 3-pointer. It was really their only open look they've had yet. On the possession just before the full break, Jonathan Tavernari was called for a travel after defenders collapsed on what he had hoped would be an open three look.
Lon Kruger's leaving the starting five in there, because, really, there's no reason not to right now.
Halftime, BYU leads 43-30
PROVO, Utah -- Oscar Bellfield was called for traveling twice late in the first half while slipping on his way to the rack, and BYU capitalized on the second infraction with a Jimmer Fredette 3-pointer at the buzzer, which put the Cougars up on the Rebels at halftime, 43-30.
Defense has been the key downfall tonight for the Rebels. First, they were having a tough time stopping the Cougars on fast break opportunities, with not enough guys hustling back to even out the numbers.
After those early pushes, the Cougars went to work on the offensive glass, and hold a 24-8 advantage on points in the paint, a 21-12 edge in rebounds and have solid control of this one right now.
The numbers don't lie so far. Here are some of them.
-Both teams are shooting right around 50 percent, but on the bottom, right-hand side of the box score, you'll see these discrepancies -- Points off of turnovers: UNLV 2, BYU 9; 2nd chance points: UNLV 0, BYU 5; Fast break points: UNLV 0, BYU 6.
-Inside of that 21-12 rebounding edge that BYU holds, the Rebels have just one offensive rebound. This comes after they grabbed 22 of them on Saturday against Wyoming. Jonathan Tavernari, on top of his 11 points, has 9 boards for BYU.
-Jimmer Fredette is the sparkplug for the Cougs. He has 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He's played more minutes than anyone so far tonight, with 19 to his credit.
-René Rougeau had a quiet 14 minutes in the first half, going 0-for-2 from the floor, with just 2 rebounds, an assist and a turnover on his stat line.
-Tre'Von Willis and Wink Adams have been the biggest offensive aggressors for UNLV. They've combined for 17 of UNLV's 30 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
Well, UNLV needed to carry over the little things from Saturday, and so far they haven't. In that game, they had 8 turnovers. Tonight they have 7 so far to just 4 assists. The lone offensive rebound is a brutal disappointment.
It's not over yet, but a near-perfect second half is needed for the Rebels to be in this thing at the end. The Rebels are fortunate the crowd isn't nuts here tonight and that the Cougars missed their fair share of chippies underneath late in the half.
3:25, first half, BYU leads 38-30
PROVO, Utah -- Wink Adams is showing signs of wanting to take this game over offensively. He's hitting tough shots, driving into traffic, getting to the free throw line and playing just like he did in Saturday's victory over Wyoming. He's playing like the Wink Adams of old.
Now someone needs to be there to assist him.
For awhile, it was Tre'Von Willis, who's shown plenty of fight tonight and has 9 points. Lately, it's been the surprisingly aggressive Darris Santee, who has 6 points and has been very active underneath the bucket.
The Rebels have also tightened up on the defensive end, making BYU earn their inside points and mid-range looks.
Yes, the initial runs appear out of the way and we're now locked in a war. But UNLV can't continue trading buckets in an atmosphere like this. A nice run would certainly help their cause before the half.
11:24, first half, BYU leads 22-13
PROVO, Utah -- Two things appear to be killing UNLV so far.
First off, René Rougeau has been pretty much absent all around so far. The Cougars aren't allowing UNLV's senior swingman to get the ball in close, and that's taken a major tool away from the Rebels' offensive gameplan.
But maybe even more glaring is UNLV's defensive struggles against BYU's fast break. The Cougars are constantly getting 3-on-1 tries, and they've scored efficiently, most recently with a Lee Cummard layup, a Cummard jam and a Jonathan Tavernari 3-pointer off of a Cummard feed. Yeah, that Cummard guy's good.
As the Rebels came to the huddle for the last full break, assistant Lew Hill barked at the team to get all five guys running back on those breaks to defend. So far, no one's done it. It was a well-deserved scolding.
15:15, first half, BYU leads 13-9
PROVO, Utah -- UNLV showed no fear right out of the gate, as Darris Santee swatted Lee Cummard on the opening possession and the Rebels ran off to a 9-6 lead.
But that didn't faze BYU too much, as the Cougars have showed precision in the fast break off of defensive rebounds, and a 7-0 run has them ahead, 13-9.
The guy killing UNLV more than anyone else right now is sophomore point guard Jimmer Fredette, who already has 7 points and has made them look effortless. The flashiest of those buckets came on a step-back 3-pointer atop the key.
The Rebels are looking a bit hurried on the offensive end and their spacing is a little iffy.
As for the atmosphere, the Cougars should be happy they have such a loyal student following. Outside of their section -- which occupies one entire side of the court -- the place is roughly half-full.
PROVO, Utah -- A frigid, overcast day today here in Utah, but it's warm tonight in the Marriott Center, where both UNLV and BYU are warming up about 40 minutes away from tip-off.
This is my first experience in this arena, which everyone and their mother says is the loudest and most intimidating in the Mountain West. Upon arriving and walking into the arena through the concourse, I was reminded of one place in particular from my days covering Big 12 hoops -- Kansas State's Bramlage Coliseum.
Built into the ground, deep, simple and to the point. Given the Kansas State connection on the UNLV staff, I figured it was worth asking Lon Kruger about.
He agreed, so I guess my lack of sleep from last night hasn't made me senile. That's a relief.
As for warmups, which have become one of the more noticed areas of UNLV's gameday process since the Colorado State debacle, it's business as usual for the Rebels. They came out and paid no mind to the few minor taunts that came from a relatively tame student section, and there's very little chatter among the UNLV players as they shoot.
BYU looks to be the more laid back of the two. Junior forward Jonathan Tavernari, who played his senior year of high school at Bishop Gorman, just made the rounds, greeting UNLV coaches Kruger, Greg Grensing and Mike Shephard. He then gave a bro-mance hug to Joe Darger at mid-court.
For as big a rivalry as this game has become in recent years, a very tame atmosphere so far. Afterall, I'm sure the pre-partying among the BYU students was held to caffeine free Diet Coke and Goldfish crackers.
Our seats tonight are right behind the UNLV bench, so we'll get some nitty gritty, maybe. Also, just more than a dozen UNLV fans right behind us at the moment. I'm sure that number will grow.
Here's one more interesting pregame note, take it for what you will ...
Earlier this season, the Rebels all wore black shoes as a sign of unity on the road. However, for road games at TCU and Colorado State -- both losses, as you recall -- the bigs wore the black shoes while the guards went with red ones.
Tonight, they're back to all black.
Basketball players are just as superstitious as baseball guys, so don't discount it completely. Or maybe it's just coincidence. Who the heck knows. Anyways, onto the three big predictions for the night ...
1) Picks to click ... It's a full boat tonight. Rob Miech is going with Joe Darger, Christine Killimayer wants Tre'Von Willis and media relations guru Andy Grossman took Wink Adams.
I'm taking Oscar Bellfield, and since I'm the one writing this, I'll expand. The kid's been quiet for too long not to blow up at some point, plus he's shown nerves of steel on the road. In six road games this season, he's 16-of-33 from the floor, 9-of-20 from 3-point range, has 16 assists to 8 turnovers (6 of those giveaways were in one game), and he's averaging 7.3 points per game.
2) There will be no complaining about a BYU bias for the TV broadcast Former Rebel great Greg Anthony is doing the color commentary on CBS College Sports. But don't expect a UNLV slant. A very professional analyst. Almost wish I could hear it.
3) UNLV 71, BYU 69 I've got a hunch, and my hunches have been decent this year, I think.
Talk to you after tip.