Published Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 | 6:51 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 | 9 p.m.
Final, BYU wins 77-73
PROVO, Utah — For more than 35 minutes, UNLV did what it planned on doing in slowing down BYU on its home floor, and the Rebels took a lead as big as six points into the home stretch on Wednesday night.
But a key late turnover on an inbounds play coupled with a Jackson Emery fall-away jumper from atop the key with the shot clock dwindling in the final minute stole the show, as BYU knocked off UNLV, 77-73, at the Marriott Center.
The Rebels, for the most part, were able to silence Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette, who missed BYU's non-conference finale with strep throat. He scored just seven points on 2-of-10 shooting, but Noah Hartsock scored 17 points inside and Bishop Gorman grad Jonathan Tavernari scored 17, including four 3-pointers.
Kendall Wallace scored nine points off of the bench, while Oscar Bellfield, Matt Shaw, and Brice Massamba scored eight points apiece for the Rebels, who now fall to 12-3 overall and 0-1 in Mountain West Conference play. The road doesn't get any easier, either, as UNLV travels to Albuquerque for a Saturday afternoon meeting with No. 15 New Mexico in The Pit. The Lobos lost their league opener, too, on the road on Tuesday night at San Diego State.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, photos, video and stats, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
7:24, second half, UNLV leads 61-60
PROVO, Utah — Win or lose for UNLV, this one will go down as one wild, enjoyable game.
Following a hot start to the second half and grabbing a six-point lead at 48-42, UNLV let BYU uncork some 3-pointers and crawl right back in.
The big swing for the Cougars came after a Darris Santee layup put the Rebels up 52-47. Noah Hartsock was poked in the eye in the process, and in response, BYU ripped off five quick points to awaken the Marriott Center crowd.
In response, Santee scored again on a smooth dish from Oscar Bellfield, and then after getting a steal on the other end, Justin Hawkins was rewarded from Bellfield, finishing a layup in transition while being fouled.
UNLV now, with under eight minutes to go, refuses to let this raucous crowd get in its collective head. Kendall Wallace just hit a big 3-pointer out of a T.V. timeout to put the Rebels up 64-60, and this one promises to go down to the wire.
BYU has been aided of late by Bishop Gorman product Michael Loyd Jr., who has picked up significant minutes in place of star Jimmer Fredette, who still hasn't found his form in his return from a bout with strep throat. He still only has five points and one made shot.
15:31, second half, UNLV leads 48-42
PROVO, Utah — Tre'Von Willis continued to live up to his reputation as a quick second-half starter on the road, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers in helping the Rebels build their biggest lead yet on the Cougars, 48-42.
Matt Shaw and Kendall Wallace also each hit threes in the opening minutes out of the locker room, while Wallace also hit a key long-range two. BYU continues to not quite look like itself on the offensive end, as Jimmer Fredette has finally taken a seat on the bench for a breather. His struggles from the floor tonight remain, as he is 1-of-9.
The one thing to keep an eye on the rest of the way is the whistle. BYU, to this point, only has four fouls called on its end, while UNLV already has been whistled for two this half. The Cougars, in turn, are 11-of-11 from the free throw line.
Halftime, BYU leads 33-32
PROVO, Utah — UNLV has dictated the pace completely through one half of basketball, and in turn, the teams have played to a near-deadlock through one half in Provo. BYU leads the Rebels at the break, 33-32.
Oscar Bellfield made a strong statement for UNLV on the final play of the half, driving hard on Michael Loyd before kissing a layup off of the glass. It gave Bellfield eight points to go with his two assists in a tightly-contested first half.
UNLV kept BYU from getting out and running, allowing zero fast break points to one of the nation's most lethal transition teams. Yes, zero. BYU has 14 offensive rebounds to its credit and has 11 second-chance points, but it's a fair trade, considering the Rebels have completely kept them from running.
Some numbers of note from the game's first 20 minutes ...
— Tre'Von Willis led UNLV with nine points, including a pace-setter early, hitting an up-and-under and-one layup before the game's first full break. The more important number for Willis so far? One foul in 14 minutes.
— UNLV has held BYU to only 2-of-10 shooting from long range. The Cougars have only gotten up a couple of 3-point shots in transition, which is their bread-and-butter.
— The only Rebel with more than one foul so far is Matt Shaw, who has two. UNLV is in good position for an arms race.
— Jimmer Fredette only had five points on 1-of-8 shooting. His streak of rough showings against UNLV continues ...
— The two benches have only combined for nine points. Whoever's bench has the bigger second half on offense could prove to be huge.
6:23, first half, UNLV leads 20-19
PROVO, Utah — UNLV has accomplished its goal so far tonight in Provo of turning BYU into a half-court team. Combine that with a clearly winded Jimmer Fredette, who is just coming off of a bout with strep throat, and the Rebels have thrown the Cougars off-kilter so far, leading 20-19 at the Marriott Center.
BYU, who is one of the nation's most lethal 3-point shooting teams, has been unable to get deep looks in transition and so far is 1-of-8 from long range.
UNLV, meanwhile, is taking it to them physically at the other end. With swooping drives to the hoop, Derrick Jasper and Anthony Marshall each added layups just before the game's most recent T.V. break.
The Rebels have thrown 10 bodies on the floor already, and are apparently factoring in the notion that this type of hectic defensive effort will be needed the rest of the way to hold the Cougars at bay.
15:45, first half, game tied 9-9
PROVO, Utah — UNLV has done what it wants so far in Provo in terms of bothering BYU in half-court sets on the defensive end. A couple of blocked shots and a couple of turnovers from the Cougars have left the door open for the Rebels to pounce on them.
And between Oscar Bellfield and Tre'Von Willis, UNLV has done just that so far on the other end.
Trailing 9-4 after Jimmer Fredette hit an un-guardable step-back 3-pointer, Bellfield cashed a second-chance three of his own from the top of the key.
Then, off of a BYU miss, Willis sent UNLV into the game's first full break in style. Streaking down the left side of the lane, he went up-and-under, contorting his body to put in an and-one jumper soft off of the rim.
UNLV is not backing down in front of a wild crowd and against a team which wants to do nothing but make this a track meet.
PROVO, Utah — Hello everyone, hope your 11-day layoff from UNLV hoops went by quick and welcome to maybe the most intriguing college basketball matchup on the national landscape tonight.
The Marriott Center is filling, and compared to last year's UNLV trip to Provo, when the arena never truly filled up, this one should be crazy from the get-go.
The massive student section (seriously, maybe the biggest west of the Mississippi) is already full and calling down to the Rebels, who are warming up on the far end.
But the Rebels are unwavering. It's been a constant theme in pregame routine this year for UNLV, and I, for one, think it's a key factor behind UNLV's early season success.
I know it may sound small, but the Rebels last season had a tendency to appear a little too loose while shooting around. In turn, a few opponents actually said they saw that — notably TCU and Colorado State — and jumped on the Rebels early because of it.
That said, if BYU is wanting to win convincingly, it appears as if it won't be so simple.
We're getting close to tip-time, so lets get to tonight's three keys to UNLV victory
1) Tre'Von Willis needs to stay out of foul trouble early. I know, you're saying 'duh' at your screen right now. But if there was ever a time for Willis to avoid the wrath of the whistle, this is the week, with heated road games at BYU and New Mexico. He's the healthiest he's been in a few weeks, and even though he performed huge second-half heroics at both Arizona and Santa Clara earlier this season, against a team as high-octane as BYU, it might not be enough if he doesn't help keep UNLV afloat early.
2) Jimmer Fredette is good, but you've got to contain Jackson Emery, too. The junior guard is averaging 20.3 points over his last three games, and for the season is a 50 percent 3-point shooter. Want to know where those crazy outlet passes to Fredette wind up? Typically in Emery's hands.
3) Keep Jonathan Tavernari reeling. The Bishop Gorman grad likes getting after UNLV, and if he comes off of the bench in the first half to give BYU a big lead, this atmosphere could get outright insane. He's struggled this season compared to last and is now coming off of the bench. UNLV needs to keep him on the mat.
As for tonight's prediction ...
I said last week that I think UNLV splits in this opening win. New Mexico will be rabid on Saturday after losing its league opener last night at San Diego State. I think UNLV escapes with victory tonight, 79-74.
Talk to you after tip-off.