Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011 | 5:45 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011 | 9:15 p.m.
- Beating UNLV at the Mack one of few items left on to-do list for BYU’s Fredette
- Notebook: Tre’Von Willis excited for sixth career meeting with BYU’s Jimmer Fredette
- Plenty of tickets remain for showdown with BYU
- UNLV ranked again, checking in at No. 25 in new AP poll
- UNLV shakes off holiday rust, closes non-con play with 73-47 triumph over CMU
- 2010-11 UNLV Schedule
- All Sun UNLV men's basketball coverage
Final, BYU wins 89-77
Wednesday night's showing at the Thomas & Mack Center from Jimmer Fredette proved one thing: He is the best player the Mountain West Conference has to offer.
No 'supposedly' about it.
After a slow start, the BYU star senior sent UNLV reeling late in the first half, then finished the job after the break, finishing with a game-high 39 points as the No. 15 Cougars rolled past No. 25 UNLV, 89-77.
As was the case a year ago, BYU put UNLV in an early 0-1 hole in MWC play.
Fredette's night included seven very difficult 3-pointers, and he made a point of gesturing towards Tre'Von Willis several times after the UNLV senior stoked the fire earlier this week a bit. Jackson Emery added 22 points for BYU, including a 6-of-9 showing from deep.
UNLV's offense went cold for much of the second half, and after a hot start of his own, Willis was just 4-of-16 from the floor on the night. Anthony Marshall led UNLV with a career-high 26 points. The Rebels shot right at 40 percent from the floor in each half, and now have some serious wounds to lick before Saturday's home date with TCU at 7 p.m. back at the Mack.
Willis scored 14 points for UNLV, while Brice Massamba and Oscar Bellfield each had 10.
For full postgame coverage, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
11:45, Second Half, BYU leads 59-46
BYU's spurt to open the second half hurt UNLV, but a pair of technical fouls against UNLV have proven to be potentially crippling.
Quintrell Thomas was called for one off of a defensive rebound with UNLV trailing by 10, after he elbowed BYU's Logan Magnusson. The UNLV bench was then called for one a minute later. Either way, it created a 5-point swing for BYU when the Rebels were somewhat within range.
This half, UNLV is just 4-of-13 from the floor, while BYU is an efficient 6-of-12.
The theme from here on out to watch will be free throw shooting, as both teams are in the bonus. So far tonight, BYU is 12-of-14, while UNLV is 6-of-12.
Halftime, BYU leads 38-35
It was only a matter of time before Jimmer Fredette arrived.
After starting 1-of-7 from the floor, he's 6-of-13 at the half with a game-high 17 points, as BYU has taken a 38-35 lead on UNLV at the break.
Following his last three of the first half, he let out a primal scream in front of the Cougars' bench, letting out three years of frustrations at the Mack.
BYU's surge was also sparked by sophomore big man Brandon Davies, who has 12 points and seven rebounds for the Cougars.
UNLV was hurt late by missing five of its final six free throw tries in the half.
To this point, the game has been clean and well-played, with the two teams combining for only 12 turnovers.
For UNLV, someone's going to have to get hot, plain and simple. Tre'Von Willis was to start the game, but is 3-of-8 from the floor now with seven points. Expect him to play almost all of the second half.
Other numbers of note from the first half ...
— BYU won the rebounding battle, 24-21.
— UNLV's bench is out-scoring BYU's, 15-0.
— UNLV is out-scoring BYU in the paint, 16-8.
— Chace Stanback is 2-of-3 with five points, but open looks have been tough to come by.
— On top of his 17 points, Fredette also has three assists and only one turnover.
7:11, First Half, UNLV leads 23-15
UNLV survived its first lull, thanks in large part to a trio of reserves.
Carlos Lopez, Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins sparked an 11-0 run that has UNLV leading BYU with 7:11 left in the first half, 23-15.
Lopez helped UNLV collapse a zone defense with a baby hook shot against a dwindling shot clock, then ignited the crowd with a big defensive rebound tie-up with BYU's Charles Abouo.
Marshall swatted a shot attempt from 6-foot-8 Noah Hartsock on the baseline, then hit a 3-pointer on the other end. He added a steal, which turned into the second bucket of the game from Hawkins.
The run more than anything sparked a crowd that had begun to get quiet during a nearly 6-minute field goal drought from the Rebels.
On the other size, Jimmer Fredette is still offensively perplexed. Being hounded constantly while on the floor, he's 1-of-6 from the floor with three points in 13 minutes.
14:33, First Half, UNLV leads 12-8
Every UNLV starter but one shook Jimmer Fredette's hand before tip-off, and it was the one guy who called him 'supposedly' the best player in the Mountain West two days ago: Tre'Von Willis.
After a Jackson Emery 3-pointer right off of the bat, Willis scored five quick points, and UNLV leads now 12-8 at the first break in the action.
It's the wildest atmosphere to this point in the season at the Thomas & Mack Center, and the Rebels' early energy has helped fuel the fire.
UNLV is playing aggressive defense and giving nothing up easy, as Fredette is 0-for-3 from the floor so far while being hounded by Willis. UNLV also holds an early 11-3 edge on the glass. BYU is 3-of-10 from the floor and has no offensive rebounds.
Getting a big pat on the back early is junior Brice Massamba, who in five minutes has four points, two tough offensive rebounds and an assists ... with no fouls.
It's safe to assume that about two months from now, when the Mountain West Conference basketball season is in its stretch run, both UNLV and BYU will be in contention for the top seed in the league tournament.
The outcome of tonight's conference opener, as No. 15 BYU (14-1) visits the No. 25 UNLV (12-2) at the Thomas & Mack Center, could have a lot to say about who has an easier path to the top.
Last season, UNLV salted away a late 6-point lead and lost in Provo to start MWC play, 77-73. From then on, BYU stayed near the top, while UNLV had to scratch and claw to keep pace with the Cougars and the likes of New Mexico and San Diego State.
The start to league play is far from easy for UNLV, who hosts TCU on Saturday, but then has to travel to face No. 6 San Diego State next Wednesday at Viejas Arena.
However, if the Rebels can defeat the Cougars, they'll give themselves a little bit of breathing room early and be allowed a slip-up or two before the two clash again at the Marriott Center in early February.
Here now are the three things to watch for during tonight's contest:
1) More muscle
Which team's big men have the better showing? It seems to be a theme with this match-up each time, as both programs in recent years have featured great depth on the perimeter and left much to be desired on the interior. For UNLV, the Rebels need a performance out of sophomore Kansas transfer Quintrell Thomas that's reminiscent of the two he had in Anaheim over Thanksgiving weekend against Murray State and Virginia Tech. On the other side, despite averaging 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds a game, BYU needs a good dose of toughness out of promising sophomore Brandon Davies, who in two appearances against UNLV last season totaled only seven points and 10 rebounds in 40 total minutes.
2) Jimmer and the curse of the Mack
If you want the numbers one more time, in the last two years, while playing a prominent role for BYU, star guard Jimmer Fredette is 1-4 against UNLV, averaging a so-so 18.0 points per game, shooting 32.4 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from deep and has 15 assists compared to 14 turnovers. He's played some of his most inconsistent games in the Mack, and is 0-5 in his career against the Rebels on their home floor. Plain and simple, he needs to dominate like he normally does against everyone else for BYU to have a shot at leaving with a win.
3) On the other hand …
UNLV has its own star player in need of a confidence boost. Junior forward Chace Stanback is still the team's leading scorer on the season (12.5 ppg), but in the team's last seven games is a combined 20-of-57 from the floor and hasn't scored in double digits in the Rebels' last three outings. This is a good match-up for Stanback, as he's likely to be matched up to start against the combination of 6-foot-8 Noah Hartsock and 6-foot-6 Kyle Collinsworth. Stanback has a strong athletic advantage over Hartsock, and Collinsworth will be facing the toughest road atmosphere he has yet to see in what's been an up-and-down freshman season. Just as badly as BYU needs Fredette to shake his troubles in this building, UNLV needs Stanback to shake his recent slump in a big way.
As for a prediction and Pick to Click tonight …
I'm predicting UNLV to win, 80-75. On a neutral floor, I think the Rebels have the better squad, and it leans even more to their favor in this building, combined with BYU having to get over the mental hurdle of never beating them here. But, still, it should be close.
My Pick to Click will be Stanback. The match-ups favor him, and this seems like a good spot for him to get back closer to the form he was in during a torrid run in late November/early December.
Remember, to join in the conversation as the action unfolds, add the #unlvmbb hashtag to your in-game tweets, or give me a follow at twitter.com/ryanmgreene.
Talk to you again after tip-off.