Yes, BYU hates traveling to Vegas. Not just because of the explicit material on billboards in Las Vegas, but also because the Cougars have a hard time pulling out victories there. BYU's last meeting with UNLV occurred before a sellout crowd of just over 18,500 in the Thomas & Mack Center where the Rebels destroyed the Cougars, using a 3-point barrage as their main weapon.
Things are very similar to last season for BYU. Both times they came into conference play with only one loss. The only difference is that their high pre-season ranking, which they did not receive last season, has let them comfortably move up to a #14 rank. I say comfortably because although they did beat the likes of Saint Mary's and UTEP, their one loss was a bad one - a seven point home loss to a struggling UCLA squad.
UNLV, like BYU, started out strong, winning their first nine games before letting things get out of hand in Kentucky against Louisville. Most of us (the fans) expected Louisville to be a tough game anyway, so we weren't disappointed. But the way we followed that up with a horrible loss to UC-Santa Barbara hurt us, and the team, very badly.
The Rebels responded greatly, defeating a short-handed #11 Kansas State 63-59. You would think that would have gotten the Rebels into the polls the next week, but both polls put us at 26th, so we had to wait until this past Monday to see if our team would make it into the polls. It turned out that we made it to 25th in the AP Poll after defeating Central Michigan 73-47 but were still 26th in the Coaches Poll.
In last season's game UNLV was on fire from behind the arc. It was simply impossible for them to miss and I think that really scued the score as far as UNLV dominating BYU. The Rebels had come out hot from three, but what if they had gone cold? Would UNLV even have won? It would have been much tougher without the giant lead created by three after three after three going down. I can almost guarantee you that UNLV will come out jacking up every three point shot possible, only to shoot 30% this time. That would put us in a very bad situation unless we were playing outstanding defense on the other side of the court.
The Rebels need to work the ball inside. I was at the Central Michigan game on the 30th and for the first thirty minutes it seemed as if UNLV could simply not penetrate the zone. We just passed the ball around the three point line and as a result took bad shots as the shot clock ran down. This has been an issue with the Rebels all season long, no penetration in a zone and therefore no points on a possession.
The good news is that there is an easy solution to this that I am sure Lon Kruger will attempt to use during the game: Spread em' out. If you spread out a zone with 4-5 men beyond the three point line, that forces them to leave the space right at the free throw line wide open. Have a series of cuts (or simply one cut) get an open man to the free throw line and you will see the chain reaction of trying to get to the man start. If the Rebels can spread a BYU zone out, then there should be a lot of success for UNLV on the offensive side of the ball.
As of Tuesday morning there was only 3,000 tickets left, they're going pretty fast. If you're planning on going to the game, I suggest you go to the box office early in the morning instead of right before the game. That way you are assured (or not) of a ticket.
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