D-mendous! Rebels blow out BYU, 70-41

The big question going into Tuesday night's early Mountain West Conference showdown between UNLV and BYU was how would the Runnin' Rebels be able to defend the much taller Cougars led by 6-foot-11 all-conference center Trent Plaisted? Turns out just fine, thank you.

UNLV (13-4, 2-1), bouncing back from its worst defensive showing of the year on Saturday at Air Force, played its best defensive game of the season and perhaps the entire Lon Kruger Era in rolling to a stunningly one-sided 70-41 victory over the Cougars (12-5, 1-1) before a crowd of 13,074 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV didn't start a player taller than 6-7 forward Joe Darger but used its superior team quickness and defensive tenacity to offset its severe lack of size in the frontcourt.

Talk about your suffocating defensive performances. Consider:

* BYU, which came into the game leading the Mountain West Conference in scoring offense by a wide margin at 79.5 points per game, finished with a season-low 41 points. The Cougars' previous low was 61 points in a 68-61 loss to No. 9 Michigan State.

* BYU scored just 21 first half points, the first time all season that Dave Rose's squad had scored less than 31 points in the first half of a game. The Cougars, in fact, scored 41 points before intermission in their 78-76 upset of No. 6 Louisville back in November at the Orleans Arena.

* The Cougars went nine minutes without scoring a point during one stretch midway through the second half and managed just five points over a 9:07 stretch at the start of the game as the Rebels bolted to an early 19-5 lead.

* The Cougars had just five assists for the game while shooting a season-low 33.3 percent from the floor including a pitiful 3-of-21 (14.3 percent) from 3-point range.

* Plaisted, considered the early frontrunner for conference player of the year honors and a potential first round NBA pick, scored a season-low five points and could only get off three field goal attempts as UNLV's swarming defense made it difficult for him to receive entry passes into the post. The frustrated 6-11 junior didn't help himself by converting just one of his 10 free throw attempts.

Meanwhile, UNLV countered with one of its better shooting performances in recent weeks. Senior point guard Curtis Terry led the way with 21 points, including 5-of-8 3-pointers, while junior guard Rene Rougeau added 15 points (7-of-11 from the floor) to go along with seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks.

In fact, it was a block by the lanky 6-6 Rougeau on BYU guard Lee Cummard that seemed to set the tone for the night.

Cummard intercepted a Rebel pass on the perimeter and took off for what appeared to be an easy layup only to get his shot swatted away at the basket by the hustling Rougeau.

"Rene does that every day," Darger, who battled the taller Plaisted to a stalemate with five points and four rebounds, said. "He's a great competitor. He had a great effort on blocking that shot. That really got the team pumped up and got the crowd into it."

Rougeau said he had been anxious to get the bad taste of UNLV's lethargic 65-53 loss at Air Force out of his mouth.

"To be honest, I lost sleep over the last two days because I was so anxious to play again tonight," the 6-foot-6 junior walk on said. "But I'll definitely sleep better tonight."

So will Darger who spent most of the game giving up four inches and at least 20 pounds banging inside against Plaisted. That would be the same Trent Plaisted who had 24 points and 17 rebounds earlier this season against North Carolina All-American Tyler Hansbrough.

"Joe is a coach's dream," Kruger said. "He does whatever he has to do, and he was banging so much inside."

"I thought I could hold my own against him," Darger said. "Plaisted is a great player and a very skilled big guy, but he just couldn't get it going tonight."

Terry buried four of his five first half 3-point attempts, many of them launched several feet behind the arc. His final one increased UNLV's lead to 36-13 with 4:10 to go in the half.

"After I got the first one to go down, I was feeling in a rhythm," Terry said. "You can't explain it. I felt like wherever I let it go, it was going to go in, and I didn't have any hesitation about it."

Overall, it was by far UNLV's best game of the season.

"I'm just very, very proud of the effort," Kruger said. "I thought the guys from the start not only played extremely hard and extremely smart and won the battle for position the majority of the time on the defensive end. … Couldn't be more pleased."


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