BYU’s Tavernari flops in return

Jonathan Tavernari nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the circle to give Brigham Young a 3-0 lead over UNLV on Tuesday night, but it was all downhill from there for the Bishop Gorman High School graduate.

The 6-foot-6-inch sophomore sharpshooter from Brazil made 1 of 9 shots from the field and finished with a season-low three points for the Cougars, who were routed 70-41 at the Thomas & Mack Center, their most lopsided loss to the Rebels in 25 meetings.

“I personally hit a flat spot, and I couldn’t hit a shot. It’s really hard when one of your top three scorers goes (1 of 9),” said Tavernari, who entered third on the team in scoring (14.3 points) and rebounding (5.8). “I forced a lot of shots, but I’ve got to give the UNLV defense a lot of credit. They get up in your grill and make you make tough decisions and lose your focus.”

Tavernari, whose previous season low was four points in a loss at Boise State, also had three rebounds, two steals and a block in 26 minutes, but said he needs to do more when his shot is off and has a “million things” that need improvement.

“I’ve got to be the kind of (player) that, if I’m not making my shots, I’ve got to help my team in other ways, and that’s really a challenge for me right now,” he said. “One thing I’m disappointed with myself is my mental toughness. I wasn’t as mentally tough as I thought I was or had been before, and it really hurt us.

“The coaching staff, especially (head coach Dave Rose), count on me a lot, and I let him down big-time.”

Rose said UNLV’s pressure defense and physical play caused major problems for his team.

“They kind of sped him (Tavernari) up and got him out of the pace that he plays at,” Rose said. “Jonathan’s a real competitor, and a lot of times he tries to do things on his own and make up for when the team’s having problems. Tonight it didn’t work out for him.”

For the most part, until Tuesday, it had worked out this season for Tavernari, who has made big strides since last year, when he averaged 6.5 points and 12.3 minutes per game en route to winning Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year honors.

Tavernari, who has started 11 of 17 games this season and entered fourth in minutes played (26.3), leads the team in 3-pointers made (45) and attempted (125).

He came up big in games against No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Louisville, scoring 18 points in a loss to the Tar Heels, in which he tied a career high with six 3-pointers, and pouring in a career-high 29 points in a win over the Cardinals.

Tavernari, who said he worked hard in the offseason to shed 15 pounds and 5 percent body fat, always has been able to shoot the ball, but Rose said he has added other facets to his game.

“Defensively, he’s really focused in on trying to do a better job of guarding, and he’s a much better defensive rebounder this year,” Rose said. “Offensively, he’s kind of expanded his offensive game, as far as his ability to post up and score inside.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0354.

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