Willis, Rebels bury BYU in avalanche of 3s, tie for first

Intensity was in Tre’Von Willis’ eyes when he first stepped on the floor Saturday. The UNLV junior guard appeared ready for a fight.

The fury Willis and the Rebels unleashed resulted in total destruction of a Mountain West Conference rival.

Willis scored a career-high 33 points, and UNLV launched a 3-point shooting barrage in the first half to blow out No. 12 Brigham Young 88-74 before a sellout crowd of 18,557 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“I was definitely ready for this one. It was a big stage, and I love big games,” said Willis, who poured in 21 points before halftime. “All I wanted to do was set a tone for our team.

“I thought all our guys came with a fight that we haven’t seen all year. We knew it all week long. The stakes were high.”

At stake was first place in the league, and the Rebels (19-4, 7-2) moved into a tie with the Cougars (22-3, 7-2) by handing out a convincing beating that featured a 29-point first-half lead.

New Mexico (21-3, 7-2) made it a three-way tie by defeating San Diego State 88-86 in overtime, and the 15th-ranked Lobos visit Las Vegas on Wednesday, setting up a tight stretch run in the MWC.

“This was a game where we really had a chip on our shoulders,” said sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield, who made three of UNLV’s 12 3-pointers and scored 12 points.

Willis hit two 3-pointers in the first four minutes, and a 3 by Bellfield put the Rebels in front 20-4 with 13:50 remaining. Willis and Bellfield sank back-to-back 3s to stretch the lead to 30-11 four minutes later.

BYU reacted slowly on the defensive end and repeatedly paid for it.

Junior forward Matt Shaw stepped out and connected on consecutive 3-pointers to make the score 36-13 with 8:44 left. Shaw hit again from long range to extend the lead to 41-15 at the 6:46 mark.

Willis’ two free throws pushed it to 47-18, and UNLV was up 56-34 at halftime.

“Tre was in a zone, and that’s what we needed,” Bellfield said. “We all were clicking, playing together and really having fun. Everybody was really energized.”

The Rebels shot 20-for-31 (64.5 percent) from the field, including 9-for-13 on 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes.

“We got on a little bit of a roll there where we were making shots, and the margin just kind of happened,” coach Lon Kruger said. “We tried to get up and be disruptive with our defense.”

The showdown between Willis and Cougars junior guard Jimmer Fredette, the conference’s top scorers, easily went Willis’ way. He shot 11-for-20, including 4 of 7 on 3-pointers, hit 7 of 9 free throws and had eight assists, five rebounds and no turnovers in 38 minutes.

Fredette shot 4-for-15 from the field and 11-for-13 at the line, finishing with 21 points. He also had seven rebounds and six assists, so he didn’t play poorly. But he was forced to do a lot on his own.

Bishop Gorman product Jonathan Tavernari added 16 points for BYU, which made 7 of 27 (26 percent) from 3-point range.

The Cougars cut their deficit to 61-48 on Tyler Haws’ 3-pointer with 14:37 to play. But Kendall Wallace and Willis each responded with a 3 to push the Rebels’ lead to 77-59 with 7:27 remaining.

Wallace finished with nine points, and Chace Stanback had seven points and a career-high 14 rebounds for UNLV.

“When the shots started going down, everybody’s confidence was going up,” said Shaw, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half. “We definitely showed that we have a lot of toughness.”

Willis, Shaw and Bellfield were the driving forces behind UNLV’s dominant first half. The crowd, which included former Rebels Jerry Tarkanian and Larry Johnson seated behind the bench, roared while the score got lopsided.

UNLV won its seventh straight game against BYU at the Thomas & Mack and avenged a 77-73 loss to the Cougars on Jan. 6 in Provo, Utah.

“You could feel the electricity on the court. The crowd was awesome,” Willis said. “It was the best we’ve played so far this season as far as everybody being focused and battling and playing with intensity.”

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

UNLV 88

Brigham Young 74

BYU Min FG-A FT-A R A PF TP

Hartsock 25 3-9 2-2 4 1 4 8

Miles 16 0-0 0-0 2 0 3 0

Emery 26 3-9 3-4 3 1 3 10

Haws 29 2-8 0-0 3 0 1 5

Fredette 37 4-15 11-13 7 6 1 21

Abouo 18 3-5 2-2 3 0 3 9

Morgan Jr 4 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 0

Loyd Jr 10 1-2 1-1 0 1 0 3

Magnusson 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Anderson 1 1-1 0-0 1 0 3 2

Tavernari 33 7-12 0-0 7 2 1 16

TOTALS 200 24-63 19-22 37 12 20 74

Field goals–38.1%. Free throws–86.4%.

Three-point goals–7-27, .259 (Tavernari 2-6, Fredette 2-7, Abouo 1-2, Haws 1-3, Emery 1-6, Morgan Jr. 0-1, Hartsock 0-1, Loyd Jr. 0-1). Team rebounds–7. Blocked shots–2 (Hartsock 2). Turnovers–11 (Fredette 2, Emery 2, Tavernari 2, Magnusson, Abouo, Loyd Jr., Haws, Miles). Steals–6 (Fredette 2, Loyd Jr., Emery, Abouo, Tavernari).

UNLV Min FG-A FT-A R A PF TP

Stanback 34 3-10 0-0 14 4 4 7

Massamba 16 1-3 0-1 3 1 3 2

Bellfield 29 4-7 1-3 2 2 2 12

Wallace 27 3-6 2-2 1 3 0 9

Willis 38 11-20 7-9 5 8 2 33

Marshall 13 2-2 0-2 2 2 1 4

Jones 6 1-1 0-0 1 0 0 2

Hawkins 13 1-2 0-0 2 1 0 2

Shaw 15 4-7 2-2 5 3 2 13

Santee 9 2-3 0-0 1 0 2 4

TOTALS 200 32-61 12-19 38 24 16 88

Field goals–52.5%. Free throws–63.2%.

Three-point goals–12-23, .522 (Willis 4-7, Shaw 3-4, Bellfield 3-4, Stanback 1-3, Wallace 1-4, Hawkins 0-1). Team rebounds–2. Blocked shots–3 (Willis, Santee, Massamba). Turnovers–9 (Bellfield 2, Massamba 2, Wallace, Marshall, Hawkins, Stanback, Jones). Steals–8 (Hawkins 2, Willis 2, Bellfield, Marshall, Stanback, Wallace).

A–18,557. Officials–Scott Thornley, Verne Harris, Tom O’Neill. Technical fouls–None.

Brigham Young 34 40 — 74

UNLV 56 32 — 88

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