Brigham Young basketball coach Dave Rose can only hope his team’s two upcoming trips to Las Vegas will go as well as this week’s did.
Led by tournament Most Valuable Player Jimmer Fredette and all-tourney selection Jackson Emery, the Cougars played some of their best basketball of the season in winning the Las Vegas Classic. After outscoring UNR 110-104 Tuesday, BYU posted an 88-66 win over Nebraska in Wednesday’s title game at the Orleans Arena.
“The most important thing was we played two really good teams, and we played well to help get us ready for when conference play starts in a couple of weeks,” Rose said. “We’re playing very unselfishly and with a lot of confidence.”
BYU (12-1) jumped to an early 16-2 lead. The Cornhuskers (9-3) had no answers at either end as the Cougars extended their lead to 24-4 7:17 into the game.
With 8:48 to play in the half, BYU was up 37-5, having hit 13 of its first 15 shots and limiting Nebraska to 14 percent shooting from the floor.
“That surprised me,” Rose said of his team’s fast start. “I expected (Tuesday’s game) to be high scoring. But this game surprised me.”
The Cornhuskers were without leading scorer Ryan Anderson, who injured his foot late in Tuesday’s 74-70 win over Tulsa. But they had bigger issues, mainly an inability to slow BYU’s attack.
It took two quick fouls on Fredette to get the Cougars out of sync offensively. With Fredette on the bench and six minutes to go in the half, Nebraska launched an 18-1 run.
But the Cornhuskers still trailed 49-35 at halftime and never were in a position to come all the way back.
“We’re missing four starters,” Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. “But you’ve got to play who you’ve got, and BYU outplayed us in every area.”
Eshaunte Jones scored a career-high 21 points to lead Nebraska.
Fredette scored 24 points and Emery 23.
They will be a tough matchup when UNLV goes to the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Jan. 6 for the Mountain West Conference opener.
The Cougars return to Las Vegas on Feb. 6 to face the Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center and in March to play in the MWC tournament.
“It’s good for our young guys to come to Vegas and have success,” Fredette said. “We’ve had trouble against UNLV in the Thomas & Mack, but hopefully when we come back here, our guys will be relaxed and confident.”
• UNR 99, Tulsa 68 — Luke Babbitt had 24 points and 11 rebounds in the third-place game, helping the Wolf Pack (7-5) win for the first time in six tries away from Lawlor Events Center this season.
Brandon Fields and Armon Johnson scored 17 points apiece for UNR, which led by as many as 39 points in the second half.
Jerome Jordan had 15 points to lead Tulsa (9-3).