Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010 | 2:29 a.m.
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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer take a look back on what went down in Provo on Wednesday, as UNLV stumbled against BYU, losing 77-73 in its Mountain West Conference opener. The guys look at what must change for the Rebels before they take on No. 15 New Mexico on Saturday in Albuquerque.
PROVO, Utah — Against lowly Eastern New Mexico on Saturday, BYU sophomore guard Michael Loyd Jr. proved he was capable of subbing for star junior Jimmer Fredette, who sat out the Cougars' non-conference finale with strep throat.
Loyd scored a career-high 17 points while playing a career-high 25 minutes.
He stepped up big again Wednesday — this time against a Mountain West Conference rival.
In a 77-73 victory over UNLV on Wednesday at the Marriott Center, Fredette still wasn't himself, scoring seven points on 2-of-10 shooting. He also had just one assist and three turnovers.
Loyd, a Palo Verde grad who said it felt nice to get the best of his hometown school, scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting in 16 minutes, including a huge 3-pointer in the second half. He also appeared to catch the Rebels off-guard with his blazing speed when putting the ball on the floor in half-court sets when UNLV's defensive presence kept the Cougars from unleashing their signature transition attack.
"At first, we contained him well, then we kind of slept on him," UNLV sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield said. "That's when he kind of picked it up and got what he needed."
Loyd came in averaging 4.6 points per game, playing just under 13 minutes an outing.
Fredette will be back to normal soon, but Loyd is making a case for increased playing time even when the Cougars are back at full strength.
"Jimmer wasn't himself tonight. Mike stepped in there, made some big, big plays for us and he's done that a lot for us this year," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "If he can be a little more consistent, he can be a terrific player for us."
Inside the numbers
A closer look inside the box score from Wednesday's contest ...
• Bellfield finished with nine assists, which marked a new career high. He had only two turnovers in the effort, too.
• Fredette, Jackson Emery and Tyler Haws, who entered the night as the Cougars' top three scorers on the year, were a combined 8-of-30 from the floor, but combined to go 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.
• BYU senior forward Jonathan Tavernari, a Bishop Gorman grad traditionally who has saved some of his best performances for the Rebels, was his old self again. The former starter tallied 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting, with all four of his field goals coming from 3-point range. He was 5-of-6 from the line and had nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
• Derrick Jasper was quiet offensively for UNLV. He was 2-of-5 from the floor, with both buckets coming before halftime. He passed up a couple open looks late in the game, but did contribute four boards and four blocks.
What's on tap?
Saturday's contest between UNLV and No. 15 New Mexico already was going to be heated enough, but with both squads dropping their Mountain West Conference openers, there could be some added pressure across the board.
The Lobos fell to San Diego State on Tuesday night on the road, 74-64, but still remain as one of the league's most formidable groups.
They'll come into Saturday's action with four players averaging in double figures, led by juco transfer Darington Hobson, who is an all-around threat. This year, the lanky forward is putting up 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists a game.
Senior Roman Martinez is one of the MWC's top 3-point threats, firing away from deep at a 48.5 percent clip.
Where New Mexico is lacking, however, is in terms of bench production. Steve Alford has gone with the same, consistent starting five in each of his team's 16 games, and no one off the bench is contributing more than 5.2 points a game.
The final word
Lon Kruger on Tre'Von Willis's night: "Tre battled hard. Obviously he scored for us, made shots, big plays. But the miscues late there, no one feels worse about it than he does."