LIVE GAME BLOG — FINAL:

Late lead slips away, UNLV falls in conference opener at BYU, 77-73

Willis leads Rebels with 24 points, but UNLV drops second straight, now 12-3 overall

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Justin M. Bowen

UNLV head coach Lon Kruger talks to his players during a game against BYU Wednesday at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. UNLV lost a close one, 77-73.

Updated Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 | 9 p.m.

UNLV vs #25 BYU

Turnovers late ultimately doomed UNLV, as the Rebels fell to 25th ranked BYU on Wednesday night in Provo, 77-73.

UNLV-BYU Basketball

UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield shoots a runner against BYU on Wednesday at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. Launch slideshow »

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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.

Pregame

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.

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Previous Discussion: 28 comments so far…

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  1. Lets go red.... i like your prediction... lets do this.

  2. anyone have a link to watch the game online?

  3. hey rebels.... ever heard the saying "one extra pass"???? we should be up by 12

  4. Had the chance to win. Willis 7 turnovers, a couple at the very end! Offensive rebounds was the difference in this game.

  5. sadly i ended up having to listen to the game on BYU radio. I can't really think of a worse sports experience than having to listen to homers of the team you hate on the radio and having the only game sounds come from sober BYU fans complaining about calls. I will now light myself on fire.

  6. Rebel Soccer dude: you take pleasure from your prediction being correct because your team lost. You're a bum.

  7. Ryan was right on with the 3 keys to victory. Unfortunately, we only accomplished 2 of them. Tre stayed out of foul trouble and we did a great job keeping Fredette and Emery in check. Tavernari showed up big time though--he was on fire in the second half and single-handedly kept them in the game. Tre definitely has to stop turning the ball over (all the time, and especially late in the game), but he shouldn't get all the blame as his offense carried us tonight. Too many turnovers and too many BYU offensive rebounds killed us tonight. Good game nonetheless, just a depressing outcome. Let's home we can recover and go 1 for 2 on this road trip. Our conference home opener is looking more and more difficult as SDSU is playing very well lately. Go Rebels!

  8. Rebel Soccer guy: BAM! You're an idiot. You're also a lousy fan by taking pleasure in your team's loss.

  9. I've got to question Kruger's coaching tonight.

    I don't know why he so married to putting chop and Wallace in at the sam time. We had 4 guards again in the 1st half and it helped BYU get about 6 or 7 offensive rebounds in that period. Leave Stanback or Jasper to help with the boards.

    Why can't we go back inside to Massamba at the end of the game instead of forcing drives that lead to throwing shots off the backboard and turning it over. 3 straight times we gave the ball to Willis on the wing with no results. How about run a play for crying out loud!

  10. I am going to be the homer that will throw the one sided refereeing into this discussion... Did you see the opportunities from the free throw line count prior to us fouling at the end... We were loosing that by a lopsided 11, mind you we were hitting the ones we were given the opportunity to shoot... But how do you tighten up defense when they are going to the line for every ticky tack play... Of course they are going to get open looks down the stretch when we have to leave room on defense... I lost count of the over the backs from BYU, but apparently it was just superior rebounding... The look on Jasper and Tre's face toward the end there was the tell all on the officiating... But like usual BYU can't do any wrong... Oh well now this just makes Saturdays game much more important...

    And SoccerFan, seriously, you are happy to be right about a loss... Obviously you are a BYU homer..

  11. what a wasted opportunity.... fredette not at %100.. we had them. not sure why shaw was in there the last part of the game... massamba was on fire. we needed to stop the bleeding and once again had no inside game.... this one hurts.

  12. I agree about the scoring in the last 6 minutes... But it is going to be really hard to pull out of funk like that when the other team starts shooting the ball and they are allowed to play as tight as they were toward the end... I mean Marshall ended up on the floor a few times and I really don't think it was because he was clumsy...

    Also is there anyone on here that can't stand Tavernari as much as I do... He whines indefinitely, every time the camera was on him he had something to say to the refs..I have watched him play for years now, and he just p***es me off more and more each year...

    But I agree we should have been able to put that game away in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half...

  13. I don't ever like to criticize coach Kruger, as I think he is great and the best thing to happen to this program since Tark, but I agree with patticus--I have not been impressed with Jones at all lately. He does the little things and brings energy, but sometimes you need someone in there who can put it in the hole. Also, I know our bigs are really post-up players, but I also think we need to at least throw it into them more often and see what happens. Especially at the end, try to draw a foul or something rather than just jacking up bad 3s and turning it over on the wing. Our bigs are actually all decent free throw shooters too. I don't know if I fall one way or the other on the officiating tonight--they definitely got more calls, but compared to most games we stayed out of major foul trouble. Again, just too many turnovers, not enough rebounding, etc. etc. etc.

  14. "...I know our bigs are really post-up players" --meant to say "aren't". And yes, I'm with you ChickenLittle, Tavernari is a whiny little bastard and a traitor--not that I would want him to play for the Rebels, but to go to HS in Vegas and to go play for "them"--its dispicable!

  15. My thing is with the free throws, BYU, one of the best free throw teams in the nation, goes to the line that much that is a bunch of free points... Not to mention the fouls came at game changing points...

    But with the way Massamba and even Santee were playing I agree the bigs should have gotten a bit more work... BYU was having a bit of trouble with them...

  16. It was a good effort. Wish they would have won but they showed some improvement for sure. Tres turnovers towards the end really hurt us.

  17. This is the worst loss to swallow in my life.

    We HAD THIS F'IN GAME IN THE BAG. Then decided to get stupid backcourt violations and throw it away. Ugh Willis is a great scorer but he shouldn't be counted on as a ball handler

  18. Basketball is a game that should be played as though one is constantly running downhill; on an edge. It is then that a team gets an advantage.

    When one team starts to walk the ball up the floor to kill time and preserve a lead, it flattens the court, loses that edge, and loses the game.

    Basketball is most fun when played on an edge. Players play better when they are having fun. Winners have fun.

  19. BYU clawing out a home win sounds about right, so long as UNLV can get it back at home. I didn't see the game--won't pay for that cable tier--but the comments about "4 guards" on the floor sounds a lot like the USC game that I did see...

  20. I completely agree about Chop....he has no business being out on the floor when the game is still in doubt. He cannot score and consistently gets beat down low on the boards! At least Wallace is a shooting threat...

    Tough loss but hopefully they take something away knowing they nearly pulled of a road victory against a top 25 team....

  21. It really doesn't matter to the committee if we lose 7-8 games TOTAL (OOC+CONF) this year..as long as they are to quality teams. If we win the games we should and steal 1 or 2 vs SDSU, utah, unm we are in good position.

    PS. The MWC Tourney is in Vegas. I do not see UNLV losing that this season.

  22. oh so now rebelsoccer wants to eliminate the basketball program. Could it be you are the same person as the idiot who tries to create logical arguments on the RJ site as to why UNLV sports need to be eliminated?

  23. kenns29 -- right on about Jasper and Stanback. Where have they been? They need to step it up big time for us to be competitive in this conference. Tre and Oscar can't do it all.

  24. Yea seemed like Chace was coming on there for 3 or 4 games then his last two efforts have been off. Well need all of Jaspers athletic ability to beat New Mexico. 1-1 out of this two game trip was what I expected so lets see the Rebs get a split then beat SDSU at the T&M and end our 3 game losing streak to them. Can't say I'm not bummed they lost tonight but it wasn't a bad loss at all and that is what matters in the end. I still have the rebels going 13-3 in conference, had them losing tonight's game and Saturdays game then in SDSU but I figured they would take care of business elsewhere and at home, but with a split here 14-2 isn't out of the question.

  25. Our offense is a dysfunctional mess and I'm not seeing much improvement in it either. In fact, its almost getting worse. All we do is stand around (!) and play two man games or run iso's...resulting in WAY too many bad shots with nobody under the basket. Whenever we play inside-out or make the extra pass good things happen... but when it matters we always end up dribbling around the perimeter (and we really arent that strong with the ball in the first place) and either chucking a three or making a desperation slash to the rim....there is no continuity, no flow, and we are too EASY to defend! These next two games will be crucial...Stanback needs to quit playing soft and start being the x factor he can be....I just think we looked better earlier in the season aka not improving and that worries me.

  26. Hey soccerfan, too bad you're not as big a Rebels fan as the Darger bros. You are a waste of time and don't deserve the right to call yourself a UNLV fan. Go back to your hole in Provo.

  27. socerfan you kinda know what your talking about but not really, maybe your just upset and your emotions are getting the best of you. If we go the rest of the season with only two more loses we will be back in the top 25 and when we win the season and tournament mountain west title we get a 5-6 seed in the big dance making our way to the sweet 16...still got some growing pains with this young team so relax and enjoy the ride...stick to soccer

  28. I'll say it again....SoccerFan=Succotash?