Tough 'Road' to Climb

With BYU currently sitting at 8-3 in the MWC and one game behind first-place Utah in the loss column, the Cougars don't have much room for error. However, with back-to-back road games at UNLV and San Diego State, they appear to have a very tough mountain to climb, especially when considering the fact that the Cougars have yet to win a true road game against either of those teams under Coach Rose.

Of course, the Cougars aren't worrying about the Aztecs right now, as they will have their hands full when they face off against the Rebels on Saturday. UNLV may not be the conference leader that it was picked to be in the preseason, and the Rebels are only in fifth place with a 7-5 conference record, but that doesn't mean Saturday will be a cakewalk.

After all, the Rebels have lost only one conference game (including games in the conference tournament) in the Thomas & Mack Center over the past three years, and that was an overtime game against San Diego State earlier this year. In addition, their conference losses this year have been anything but blowouts.

"Their losses in our league are last-possession type of things. They've got a couple overtime losses, they've got a last-shot loss at Colorado State," said Coach Rose, adding that the Rebels have played well against everybody in the MWC.

BYU last beat UNLV in Las Vegas four years ago in overtime, and have since lost five consecutive games against the Rebels in the Thomas & Mack Center, including twice in the Mountain West Conference Tournament title game.

This then begs the question: have BYU's struggles against UNLV in Las Vegas gotten into the Cougars' heads or led to any intimidation?

"I don't think so," said Jimmer Fredette. "I definitely hope not. I know that our team is very confident in ourselves. Obviously we haven't had success down there in the past but we know that it's just another game."

Fredette said he expects it to be an intense and physical game, and for there to be a "crazy" crowd on Saturday. But, he said "it's do or die at this point, so we can't be scared of anything."

Coach Rose offered some thoughts on what his team must do better on Saturday than what it did in the loss to UNLV earlier in the season.

"I think the first thing is to make sure that we have two halves where we play as well as we played in the first half [in the first UNLV game]," he said.

In the first half of that game the Cougars played at their pace and were defensively sound, a lot more confident and a lot more patient, Rose said.

The Cougars went into halftime with a 13-point lead, but played a very poor second half. Fredette said that in the second half the Rebels "played really good pressure defense and I think we were a little bit bothered by that, and that's something we really need to work on this time."

In fact, after watching film of UNLV's conference losses this season, Fredette noted that the teams that beat the Rebels were able to handle their pressure defense. He added that they also played good defense themselves, and matched the Rebels' intensity and hustle. The Cougars, he said, need to be just as scrappy as the Rebels on Saturday.


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