UNLV BASKETBALL:

Frenzied atmosphere a difference-maker at the Mack

18,557 fans fill T&M for game against No. 12 BYU

#12 BYU vs UNLV

Led by a Tre'Von Willis career-high 33 points, UNLV upended twelfth-ranked BYU 88-74 for the Rebels' seventh straight win over the Cougars at the Thomas & Mack.

UNLV-BYU Basketball

UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis watches his layup go in against BYU Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010, at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV upset 12th-ranked BYU 88-74. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

BYU POSTGAME: A hot, hot first half ... and more

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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.

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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.

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  1. No UNLV - BYU rivalry? I'm sure they don't get up for us when we come to Provo. Haha. A natural rivalry no but they can call it what they may.

  2. I agree with lvoop. By no means is this a natural or long standing rivalry. But neither is the Colts-Pats, but that is probably today's best rivalry in the NFL. When 2 teams are consistantly at the top of their conference, league, division etc. a rivalry unquestionably forms. Do we have a rivalry with BYU football? Absolutely not. But you say there is no rivalry between UNLV and BYU in basketball Mr. Topham? Go ask Sarah Cummard if she feels the same. Or maybe there isn't a rivalry formed because when a team owns a matchup (7 UNLV victories in the last 10 meetings) it is not usually considered much of a rivalry. PEACE!

  3. It's convenient for Stevey boy to say there is no rivalry because his team is consistently on the short end of the whoopin' stick when playing UNLV.

  4. What a pompous thing to say. Ya... I'm sure it's pretty easy for high and mighty BYU to overlook UNLV and it's lack of basketball history when the two match up. BYU's real rival should be Texas A&M, who blows them out by 25 everytime the two teams meet in the first round of the big dance. Ryan should probably feel honored that a BYU fan even stopped and talked with him.

  5. As a BYU fan you are all correct. As is Steve. BYU fans do not see UNLV fans as a rival and it has nothing to do with being "high and mighty." BYU fans look upon UNLV basketball as they do TCU football...a great team that seems to have their number on most occasions. BYU does get everyone in the MWC best shot in both football and basketball. Whether out of contempt for the "uppity" BYU fans or the church they represent I do not know.

    BYU's only rival in the MWC is Utah. Just as Utah's only rival in the MWC is BYU. Does that take away from the great games BYU & UNLV have played over the years? No. You do not need to deem an opponent a rival to make it a BIG game. I'm sure UNLV fans, with no natural in conference rival, see it a little different. I just wanted to put some substance to "Stevey Boy" Ha.

    I hope the Rebs continue to play their way into the Tourney. I was shocked to see some national 'experts' claiming the MWC is only a 2 bid league. That my Vegas friends, is ridiculous. UNLV proved tonight, and by its pedigree that it deserves to be in the Tournament.

    And funny jab on the Texas A&M front...maybe the committee will allow us to make the third time a charm.

  6. I highly doubt that Ytribe8. A&M would whoop BYU again.

  7. don't get me wrong, hopefully they give you a game you can win. In the Big Dance I root for all MWC teams as I do for all non-conference games. Makes the Rebels look way better.

  8. This is what BYU fans do not understand. You may get everyone's best in football, but not basketball. The other teams actually get up more for UNLV in basketball than BYU. UNLV has the national brand and the recent NCAA Tournament success.

    Reality is that nationally BYU's non-success in the NCAA Tournament is becoming a bit of joke. Last night the ESPN commentators were asking if they could actually win a game in the tournament this year (for once). And, unfortunately, it is hurting the league badly.

    Talk to be people nationally about the best progam in the Mountain West in recent years and they say UNLV. You have to win in the NCAA Tournament.

    So Cougars, PLEASE win a game this year in the NCAAs so it will help the flippin' (pun intended) league.

  9. "the church they represent"

    And here comes the persecution complex.

    Would just like to point out that NOTHING has been stated about religion until the byu fan brings it up.

    Typical MO. Anyone who hates byu is a bigot, right? Has nothing to do with how obnoxious and sanctimonious their fans are.

  10. Don't forget the persecution by the game officials, too. Jimmer gets fouled every time he touches the ball.

  11. Guess what Steve Tropham...I live in Utah, and the whole week before this game, they talked on the radio about UNLV now becoming their biggest hoops "RIVAL"....yes, it goes both ways, and that's why the Marriott Center attendance spiked at the UNLV game too. Get over it, its not just BYU and Utah...obviously that's your life-long rival, but in hoops, currently, UNLV is just as much a rival....even many BYU fans agree.

    Also....we've felt it for years too. Everybody circles the UNLV game on their schedule. We constantly have bigger crowds in our away games than other MWC teams have (in hoops, of course).

  12. There is a really good conference rivalry that has developed in the last few years with UNLV and BYU basketball.

    UNLV has won 7 of 10 against BYU. But UNLV played 6 home game vs. 4 home games for BYU. And UNLV has managed to protect their HC, while picking up one win at the Cougars home court.

    In recent years, UNLV has won three tournament games. BYU has won none.

    BYU has won three straight regular season conference titles, UNLV has won none.

    UNLV has won two conference tournament champions, on their home court, BYU has won none.

    Over the last four years, BYU has an in conference record (including tournament games) of 51-14. UNLV is 46-18.

    BYU has been slightly better overall in the regular season, but in head to head matchups, the Rebels hold an edge, and in Post season play the Rebels have absolutely dominated.

  13. "And here comes the persecution complex."

    Saying that the fact that BYU is a religious school might feed into some of the conference rivalries is not having a persecution complex, I'm sorry, its just not.

    Why do you think fans go to the game holding signs saying "Real Mormons are Rebels" and "CTR: Choose The Rebels."

    Its definitely a factor. But its good natured fun, and its not persecution.

    "Typical MO. Anyone who hates byu is a bigot, right? Has nothing to do with how obnoxious and sanctimonious their fans are."

    Honestly man, I'd like to point out that it was a good natured discussion, until you totally overblew his comments.

    How you can take him saying: "BYU does get everyone in the MWC best shot in both football and basketball. Whether out of contempt for the "uppity" BYU fans or the church they represent I do not know." As him calling everyone who hates BYU a bigot, I do not know.

  14. great story Ryan
    No rivalry - maybe not. But we still kicked their ass!

  15. That whole rivalry thing is just BYU for you. USU has played BYU over 100 years and still claims not to be rivals. Its OK, the Aggies keep slapping them up side the head to remind them, similar to the Rebels.

  16. To the UNLV fan who says he lives in Utah: If you had ever lived in that state, you would understand that Utah is BYU's only rival. They compete for recruits, fans, attendance, media attention, bragging rights, and everything else---in all sports and academics, not just basketball.

    I know UNLV fans, this is like finding out that the girl you are infatuated with barely recognizes your existence. It hurts, but you need to get over it.

  17. I don't really care what you think of UNLV, rival or no. What I do know is that I have to interact with several byu fans throughout the course of my week all year and they take our matchups personally.

    I know that after losing 3 times to us in the MWC championship game we probably didn't get your attention. But, I wonder when you were getting destroyed 47-18 yesterday did you then recognize our existence?

    Hey, it's cool if BYU and it's fans don't act like they care or even get amped up when they play UNLV. It's probably why you get beat down 7 out of 10 games. So, we'll keep despising BYU basketball and it's moronic fans while kickin' your butts on the court at the same time.

    I know byu fans, this is like finding out that you're taking the exact same semester exam as the previous nine and yet you still don't study or respect the difficulty of the exam, thus failing over and over and over. It hurts, but you need to get over yourselves.

  18. BYU is UNLV's rivalry next to UNR. Rivalries are made by teams that meet regularly and are action packed games. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't BYU usually beat Utah?

  19. Check out Espn.com and look at ncaa home page, UNLV is getting some respect.

  20. dayummm this guys right were on the front page of espns college basketball page ... i know byu fans you guys get all the espn love right... you know college gameday during football ... i think you guys got beat down on both those occasions if im not mistaken - the hell with the espn pub besides gottlieb all those fools are a bunch of old hacks with east coast bias ... ill take the big dance W's any day

  21. I'll go back to the point I said at the beginning of this post. In 2003 the Colts-Patriots matchup wasn't a rivalry. The Pats had just won their first SB and Peyton was 5 years into his career. 7 years later it is the biggest rivalry in the NFL. Not the most storied. Not because of geography. Because they are consistantly two of the top teams vying for the AFC and they tend to cross paths at season defining times. UNLV vs BYU is a rivalry. Any BYU fan that refuses to believe so is in denial. I understand it is not a traditional rival. But in the current landscape of MWC basketball, it is certainly a rivalry of sorts. I guess if I were a BYU fan, I would only stake claim to my Utah rivalry though. I wouldn't want to admit I can't beat someone I'm supposed to be in competitive with. Here is a thought for you BYU fans out there: When was the last time you won anything of significance in major college sports? If your program is so superior, why haven't you been to a BCS game? Why can't you win NCAA tournament games? Heck, why can't you win a MWC Championship game? Yeah, you excell in the olympic sports, but in MAJOR college sports you wither away under the pressure of the media and the competition. Go ahead, win another regular season conference title...and go on to embarass the conference in the first round again. You can't win when it matters most. You can't seem to be the "BCS Buster" when you are favored to do so, and you can't perform on a national level in basketball. Jack541, Im only presenting the facts. I know it hurts, but get over it.

  22. I am much more worried about the BYU games than the UNR game. However, I feel we should really be playing home and home with UNR, we could use the extra win on our schedule.