Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010 | 7:02 p.m.
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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer break down UNLV's 88-74 whipping of No. 12 BYU on Saturday afternoon at the Mack to pull even with the Cougars atop the Mountain West Conference standings. The guys give you the key points from the Rebels' 19th win of the season, plus handicap the race for the league's regular season title moving forward.
During the last media timeout on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center, with several fans from a sellout crowd of 18,557 already flocking toward the exit, an announcement was made with a friendly reminder.
See you Wednesday.
The UNLV basketball team put on a show for its largest crowd of the season on Saturday, racing to a 15-2 lead against No. 12 BYU and never looking back in an 88-74 victory against their heated rivals.
Now, with arguably its biggest win of the season in the books, the Rebels are preparing to host No. 15 New Mexico on Wednesday in another crucial Mountain West Conference game.
They will be hoping for a repeat performance — on the court and in the stands.
The vocal and rowdy crowd on Saturday, especially the roughly 2,400 students in Kruger’s Korner, was asked to show up early, wear red and cheer loud — the now-trendy public relations slogan.
And cheer loud they did.
“This is our biggest game of the year,” said Abe Caldwell, a 21-year-old UNLV sophomore sitting in the front row of Kruger’s Korner with his face and part of his body painted red.
“We hate BYU. It is our job to get in their heads and mess with them.”
That seemed to be the mood of most of the pro-Rebel crowd that fought through an afternoon rainstorm to get to the arena to cheer on the home team.
Rain or shine, nobody was going to miss this highly anticipated matchup — a game everyone expected to be a slugfest. This was the second sellout for a UNLV home game in the last 17 years, the first coming last year against BYU.
“No true Rebel fan would miss this game,” said Ben Simon, 35. “Who wouldn’t want to be here watching this (beating) of BYU?”
Maybe the few hundred students who rushed onto the court in celebration after the game were a little overboard. But, the again, it was BYU.
“The fans did great today,” said UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis, who scored 21 points in the first half and finished with a career-high 33 points. (There were) 18,000 in the building. You could feel the electricity on the court.”
UNLV never trailed and led by double digits for the game’s final 35 minutes. The Rebels connected on four straight 3-pointers in the initial outburst and built a 20-4 advantage with 13:49 left in the first half.
With each bucket, the crowd got louder … and louder.
“They were playing at home and they fed off the crowd. You have to give them credit,” said BYU’s Jonathan Tavernari, a former Bishop Gorman High player who finished with 16 points.
BYU has lost its last six meetings against UNLV in Las Vegas, including twice in the finals of the Mountain West tournament. The schools, usually near the top of the league standings, have developed a heated rivalry — hence Saturday’s crowd.
There were a few hundred BYU fans in attendance, sitting mostly behind the Cougars’ bench and randomly in the stands.
BYU fan Steve Topham, a Las Vegas resident and BYU graduate, attends most Cougar games in Las Vegas. He said the reception UNLV fans gave his alma mater is common for most schools in the league.
“I don’t think there is a BYU-UNLV rivalry,” Topham said. “Only UNLV fans think that. Our rival is Utah. Everyone — Air Force, Wyoming — thinks BYU is their rival.”
The ticket office stayed open after Saturday’s win and officials anticipate Wednesday’s game against New Mexico could also be a sellout. There was less than 5,000 tickets remaining on Saturday morning, a few hundred of which are part of the 2,400 reserved for students.
“We’ll be in a good position to move some tickets if we win on Saturday afternoon,” said Perk Weisenburger, UNLV's Associate Athletics Director for External Operations, on Thursday.