Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
- Box Score: BYU 89, UNLV 77
- UNLV run ragged by Fredette, BYU in conference opener, 89-77
- 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
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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.
Few would argue against BYU’s NCAA Tournament victory against Florida last year counting as one of the biggest wins in program history.
The 99-92 double-overtime triumph was the Cougars first tournament victory in 20 years. As far as senior guard Jackson Emery is concerned, Wednesday’s 89-77 win against UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center was just as meaningful.
“It felt fantastic,” Emery said. “We knew UNLV was beatable. We had beaten them before in our arena and we knew they played really well at home. They make spurts, but if we played consistently we knew we’d get it done.”
Emery and his teammates weren’t shy about expressing how much beating the Rebels in Las Vegas meant to them after the game. BYU had lost eight straight to UNLV in Las Vegas, dating back to a Feb. 5, 2005, overtime win.
Senior standout Jimmer Fredette said that streak was on their minds throughout the week and when they took the floor. Fredette made sure it ended Wednesday with 39 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“It was one of the best wins we’ve had in a long time because we hadn’t won here and we realize that,” Fredette said. “We were able to get in here and start off conference right. Not many teams are going to come in here and win this game because they play so well at home.”
As good as it felt for the Cougars to win in Vegas, the position it puts them in the Mountain West Conference is far more important. BYU will enter its next four games as heavy favorites and has a great chance to start conference play 5-0 heading into a home showdown against San Diego State.
If the Cougars shoot as well as they did in the second half Wednesday, it’s going to be tough for anyone to beat them. BYU went 58 percent from three and 50 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes and led by as many as 21 points.
“In the second half, we broke them,” Fredette said. “We were able to get the score up a little bit and they had to change their game.”
The breaking might have started right before halftime. Fredette made a contested, fadeaway three-pointer with 40 seconds left in the first half to give BYU a 38-35 lead.
It marked a complete turnaround from the opening 14 minutes of the game, when UNLV held Fredette to one field goal and took a 25-15 lead. Fredette awoke right after that.
“I knew we needed a lift,” he said. “I just went and saw the ball go in once. From then on, I just kept shooting the ball.”
While Fredette had one of the best games of his career, BYU coach Dave Rose said it was Emery who made the difference. Emery scored 22 points, one shy of his season high, and went 8-for-13 from the floor.
When UNLV started trapping Fredette and daring someone else to step up, Emery responded.
“Jimmer is great at creating, creating for himself and for his teammates,” Emery said. “He realized that I was shooting the ball and guys were collapsing on him so he was distributing.”
Emery went 6-for-9 from three and had one stretch when he knocked down three jumpers in a minute. He was beaming after the game — joking about the contact he momentarily lost in the first half, praising his teammates and declaring the win monumental.
It was exactly what Rose wanted to see.
“I’m happy for our players,” Rose said. “We’ve got a group of guys in there who have really, really positive experiences, and we wanted to get them a win here. They wanted it and they got it tonight.”