UNLV vs. BYU: Game Preview, Prediction, TV, Radio, Live Stream, Odds, More
UNLV aiming to give BYU an 0-3 mark against MW schools
Rebels looking to win back-to-back games for the first time under T.J. Otzelberger
WHO: UNLV (4-6, 1-0 MWC) vs. BYU (6-4, 0-0 WCC)
WHEN: Saturday, December 7 — 12:00 P.M. PT / 1:00 P.M. MT
WHERE: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
ALL-TIME RECORD: UNLV leads the series, 18-16
ODDS: BYU -10, per KenPom
The Rebels head to Salt Lake City to take on home-state favorites BYU at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Saturday afternoon. UNLV should be in high spirits after Tuesday’s 81-80 win in double overtime against Fresno State.
The Rebels put a good foot forward to open their Mountain West Conference campaign by snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat. According to Ken Pomeroy’s win probability tracker, UNLV had just a 5.9% chance of winning the game with under two minutes to play. But a game-tying layup from Bryce Hamilton with eight seconds remaining forced the game into overtime, where the Rebels eventually prevailed.
It was the fourth overtime game of the season for UNLV and their second in a row, but just the first time they came away with a win.
Speaking of overtime, BYU is no stranger to the extra period. The Cougars are coming off an overtime loss to Utah in Salt Lake City just three days ago. The Utes won by a score of 102-95, providing another example that they could be a challenger in the middle of the Pac-12 this season. BYU also fell to Boise State in overtime a few games ago.
Wednesday’s loss was the fourth of the early season for BYU, but they still had reason to celebrate, regardless of the result.
That’s because star big man Yoeli Childs was finally back in action after serving out a suspension for improperly filed paperwork this offseason. The senior exploded for 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including going 3-for-3 from downtown. It was a promising first performance of the year for the NBA prospect.
Also promising was that BYU shot well over 50% as a team from the field and hit on 12 of their 24 three-point attempts. Jake Toolson, last season’s WAC Player of the Year at Utah Valley, continued to thrive under his old head coach, Mark Pope. Toolson scored 27 in Wednesday’s loss.
The return of Childs could make this an extremely difficult game for the Rebels. At full strength, BYU might have fared better against the likes of San Diego State and Boise State. The Cougars have an outside chance at an at-large bid in March, but those odds took a hit with the loss to Utah.
UNLV, on the other hand, is just trying to get their heads back above water as they attempt to get their record closer to .500. After today’s game, the Rebels have three more tuneups at the Thomas & Mack Center before Mountain West play resumes on December 1, when they host Utah State.
BY THE NUMBERS
On UNLV’s offensive possessions…
The Rebels’ shooting is starting to get a little better, but they still put up only average numbers in that department. They will need to score well on Saturday to keep up with BYU’s offense. UNLV is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country—thanks largely to the efforts of Cheikh Mbacke Diong—but the Cougars have protected the glass well, even without their star big man. TJ Otzelberger’s main concern must be those turnovers. BYU doesn’t boast the most opportunistic defense, but the Rebels have made a habit of shooting themselves in the foot this year.
On BYU’s offensive possessions…
The Cougars are one of the best shooting teams in the country with four players shooting over 40% on at least two 3-point attempts per game. And that doesn’t even include TJ Haws, who has been battling a cold spell throughout the start of the year. But for as good as they are from the field, BYU struggles to get to the line and convert. The Rebels crash the boards well compared to what BYU has done so far on offense, but keep in mind that these numbers reflect a mostly Yoeli Childs-less team. With Childs in the fold, Diong will have a harder time trying to maintain the Rebels’ advantage in this area.
DPI PROJECTED SCORE: BYU 77, UNLV 72
Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.