Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 | 2:15 a.m.
- Box Score: BYU 89, UNLV 77
- BYU makes it no secret how much road win against UNLV means
- INSTANT ANALYSIS: Take your hand off the panic button; it was just one game
- LIVE GAME BLOG: Fredette exorcises Mack demons, leads No. 15 BYU past No. 25 UNLV, 89-77
- 2010-11 UNLV Schedule
- All Sun UNLV men's basketball coverage
Las Vegas Sun reporters Ryan Greene, Case Keefer and Ray Brewer discuss the UNLV basketball team's loss to BYU to open Mountain West Conference play. The Rebels were victimized by Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette and friends, and now have plenty of questions to answer moving forward.
Several opponents over the last few years have been victimized by an offensive onslaught from BYU senior guard Jimmer Fredette, and until Wednesday night, UNLV had defended him well enough to avoid being on that list.
Then Wednesday night unfolded.
After starting 1-of-7 from the floor, Fredette exploded for 39 points in leading No. 15 BYU to an 89-77 victory over No. 25 UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center, which went in the books as the Cougars' first victory over the Rebels in Las Vegas since 2005.
In front of a wild crowd of 17,942, UNLV came out hot and led by as many as 10 points in the first half. But a visibly motivated Fredette could only be pinned down for so long.
Earlier in the week, UNLV's Tre'Von Willis, who has defended Fredette better than anyone in the Mountain West Conference over the past two seasons, turned some heads by calling the Cougars' star "supposedly the best player in the conference."
Fredette never fired back publicly before the game, but while hitting tough shot after tough shot to silence the crowd, he had words, glares and snarls on a few occasions for his rival.
"I did see it," Fredette said of the comment. "It's something you take in stride. I definitely saw it and was reminded of it."
Fredette scored in a variety of ways, hitting guarded threes from NBA range after lulling defenders to sleep and slipping through traffic for nice finishes at the bucket.
But that all came after UNLV (12-3 overall, 0-1 MWC) opened up strong, with a 13-0 run that was fueled by reserves Anthony Marshall, Justin Hawkins and Carlos Lopez. That spurt gave the Rebels a 25-15 lead.
Willis locked Fredette down defensively on the game's first few possessions, but as others switched and rotated onto the preseason MWC Player of the Year, he spotted a few weaknesses and scored 14 of the Cougars' final 23 points in the half, giving BYU (15-1, 1-0) a 38-35 halftime edge.
Then, much of the second half was a blur.
While Fredette kept going, senior backcourt partner Jackson Emery caught fire, scoring 22 points of his own. BYU also got solid contributions all night on the interior from sophomore Brandon Davies, putting UNLV in a hole as deep as 21 points while seizing control of the game's pace.
"We were stretched a little bit in the second half," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "It's one thing when Fredette is doing what he does and can do, and to have the support of Emery, and Davies did some good things for them early, I thought they played great."
Added Willis: "A couple of plays here and there, we were down eight, and a couple of plays from there, we lost all momentum. It kind of got out of control a little bit."
On the night, Fredette and Emery were a combined 13-of-22 from 3-point range and kept UNLV from truly threatening much in the second half.
The best chance the Rebels had to creep back in came with just under 14 minutes left to go, after Quintrell Thomas grabbed a defensive rebound as UNLV trailed by only 10 points.
Thomas was called for a technical foul after throwing an elbow at BYU's Logan Magnusson, which put Fredette at the free throw line, where he hit both tries. Then with the ball, Magnusson scored on a tip-in, and moments later, the UNLV bench was assessed with a technical foul. Fredette hit another charity, giving BYU a five-point swing right after UNLV had hopes of cutting its deficit to single digits.
Kruger said after the game that he wasn't quite sure what on the bench drew the technical call, but it was symbolic of an unraveled second-half showing from his team.
The Rebels were a respectable 7-of-19 from deep, but several of them came during a late run after the Cougars had relented on defense.
Willis was just 4-of-16 from the floor, and Chace Stanback's seemingly endless offensive slump continued. His 3-of-5 showing was efficient, but he was again having trouble getting looks at the bucket and pulling the trigger, essentially disappearing into the game's background.
The big men were good early on in the game but faded away from the radar as the Rebels relied more and more on outside shots to get back into it.
UNLV's lone bright spot on the night was the play of sophomore guard Marshall, who continuously pushed the ball into traffic and finished plays at the rim. He scored a career-high 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including a pair of treys. He also had three rebounds, three blocks, two rebounds and two steals.
"Maybe the ball was getting hung up on one side of the court, not getting swung and making the defense play everything," Willis summarized afterward. "If the defense has to guard one side of the floor, it's pretty easy. End of the game, our run, we were swinging it and attacking."
What Willis bemoaned the most after the game was the collective effort against Fredette.
His personal battle with the BYU senior is one that over the years he's taken immense pride in, and that pride was visibly hurt a bit as the game went on and Fredette became more and more demonstrative.
"I've been saying, he does a great job of changing speeds. That's why I get frustrated when us, as a group, put our hands down and just allow him to shoot the ball," he said. "I expect him to shoot it every single time. He's gonna get his attempts. That's no question. We just have to do a better job next time of getting a hand up and putting it in our minds that he's gonna shoot the ball."
The 0-1 hole in league play is nothing new for the Rebels, who faced a similar predicament a year ago following a 77-73 loss to the Cougars in Provo, Utah, to start the conference slate.
The big concern is that UNLV hasn't had a strong, clean, 40-minute performance in a win in roughly a month and still looks a long way away from the team that was riding a wave of momentum entering December.
"We've been talking about that for awhile," Willis said. "So we've just got to make our adjustments. We're gonna make adjustments; that's what we do every year, every season throughout the year. We'll make our adjustments, be ready for TCU (on Saturday)."
UNLV tips off against TCU at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Mack. The Horned Frogs (9-7, 0-1) lost their league opener at home Wednesday to No. 6 San Diego State, 66-53.