Hoops Preview: UNLV vs BYU Basketball

unlv vs byu

Runnin’ Rebels (4-6, 1-0)  |  BYU Cougars (6-4, 0-0)

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After an exciting double-overtime victory in their conference opener, UNLV must now prepare for another non-conference opponent in BYU.

Runnin’ Rebels head coach TJ Otzelberger and his team were finally able to get a win in overtime, after losing their first three overtime games. They traveled to California to get the dramatic victory on the road against Fresno State, 81-80, and are now 1-0 in conference play.

Junior forward Donnie Tillman led the way with a career-high 28 points, while sophomore guard Bryce Hamilton also produced a career-high performance with 21 points and rebounds.

Junior guard and team captain Amauri Hardy still leads the team in scoring with 17.7 points, and he will be looked at to continue leading the team now with depth being an issue.

The team’s other captain, senior guard Elijah Mitrou-Long broke his left thumb earlier in the week in practice and will have to sit out the next 6-8 weeks. Losing him will be a big blow for UNLV as he was one of the team’s leaders and was trusted to have the ball in his hands in critical moments, accounting for 12.9 points per game.

The other key rotation player missing action is junior guard Jonah Antonio. The three-point sharpshooter has missed the past five consecutive games, and there is still no timetable for his return.

On the other side of things, BYU is another team led by a new head coach this season. Formerly at Utah ValleyMark Pope is now running things for the Cougars. Previously, he was an assistant coach at BYU from 2011-2015.

Senior forward Yoeli Childs technically leads the team in scoring, averaging 29 points per game. However, Childs has only played one game this season so far. He returned in their previous game after sitting out their first ten games. Behind him is senior guard Jake Toolson, who is averaging 16.2 points per game.

The Cougars are coming off an overtime loss of their own, on the road, against in-state rival Utah, 102-95.

This game will be played in the state of Utah, but the neutral site of the Vivint Smart Home Arena, the home of the Utah Jazz. These two teams last played against each other last season when they played in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena, home of the Vegas Golden Knights.

In that game, the Runnin’ Rebels got the slight victory in what was another thrilling overtime game, with the final score being 92-90. The difference in that game was a climactic long-range three-pointer at the buzzer by Noah Robotham.

In order for UNLV to build off the momentum of the close victory over Fresno State and continue to be successful, they will look for Tillman to continue being aggressive when taking it to the hoop. The reigning Pac 12 Conference Sixth Man of the Year led the way by using his experience from playing in a tougher power five conference.

The emergence of Hamilton is becoming more and more critical. This proved to be evident when it mattered most in the game against Fresno State. Going into the half, he only had two points, but that all changed in the clutch moments late in the second half. He contributed with a key steal and the game-tying basket to send the game into overtime. In the two overtime periods, it was Hamilton who hit clutch three-pointers and free throws to help carry the load and make sure they were going to leave the arena with the hard-fought victory on the road. By the time the game was over, he had finished with his career-high 21 points.

UNLV will play BYU on Saturday, December 7, at noon. The game will only be televised on BYUtv but can be heard on ESPN Radio 1100.

 

Isaiah Torres

Twitter: @Isaiah_Torres24

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