Game 29 - BYU Hosts UNLV Saturday in Home Finale

Senior Mike Hall will play his last regular season game in a BYU uniform when the Cougars take on UNLV Saturday night in the Marriott Center. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

BYU (9-19, 3-10 MWC) will play the final game of the regular season when the Cougars meet the UNLV Rebels (14-12, 6-7) Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center. The game will be broadcast by SportsWest Productions on KSL-TV in Utah as well as being available via ESPN FULL COURT. The radio broadcast can be heard on KSL Newsradio 1160 (KSL.com).

UP NEXT FOR THE COUGARS

BYU heads to Denver for the Mountain West Conference Tournament next week. Quarterfinal games will be played Thursday (ESPN+Plus and ESPN). Brackets and game matchups will be announced Saturday night.

BYU GAME #29 FAST FACTS

BYU COUGARS (9-19, 3-10 MWC) vs. UNLV REBELS (14-12, 6-7 MWC)

SATURDAY, MARCH 5, 2005

MARRIOTT CENTER (22,700)

PROVO, UT 7:07 p.m. MST

Coaches:

BYU, Steve Cleveland (138-106 in eighth season; same overall)

UNLV, Lon Kruger (14-12 in first season; 332-245 in 19th season overall)

Series:

BYU leads, 10-8 (The Cougars defeated the Rebels 82-72 in overtime earlier this season}

TV:

SportsWest (KSL-TV Channel 5 in Utah and available nationally via ESPN FULL COURT with Tom Kirkland calling play-by-play and Blaine Fowler adding analysis)

Radio:

KSL 1160, BYU Sports Network (Greg Wrubell calls play-by-play with Mark Durrant adding commentary)

Web:

Live audio and live stats are available at byucougars.com/basketball_m/ (see upcoming schedule)

COUGAR QUICK HITS

y´ BYU (9-19, 3-10 MWC) is 6-7 at home, 2-9 away and 1-3 on a neutral floor. Last Saturday's game at Utah was BYU's fourth this season against a top-25 team (North Carolina, NC State and Utah). BYU's non-league schedule this season included four Pac-10 opponents and two ACC teams.

y´ BYU had held the lead or been tied in the second half of every league game but at UNM and at AFA. Overall, 10 of BYU's losses have been single-digit setbacks, including six by five points or less and five defeats of three-points or less. Eight of BYU nine wins had been double-digit victories, including its overtime win at UNLV. It's last win was a one-point victory at home over Colorado State.

y´ With BYU's last victory against Colorado State, BYU coach Steve Cleveland passed Frank Arnold (1975-83) into fourth place on BYU's all-time victory list with 138 wins. He needs 14 more wins to equal Ott Romney (1927-35) and Roger Reid (1989-96) who both achieved 152 victories.

y´ BYU coach Steve Cleveland has utilized 18 different starting lineups this season while dealing with injuries and inconsistent play from an inexperienced roster. Before using his 16th lineup at UNM due to Keena Young's injury, he had used the same lineup the prior six games -- the only time this year the same five players started even three consecutive games.

y´ The 10 BYU players averaging double-digit minutes this season include six sophomores, three seniors and one freshman. Only three players -- seniors Mike Hall and Jared Jensen and sophomore Garner Meads -- averaged more than 10 minutes during a prior season as a Cougar. Of BYU's freshmen top-20 signing class, only F/C Chris Miles is currently playing as David Burgess (ankles) and Trent Plaisted (knees) are out while top guard prospect and Arizona Player of the Year Lee Cummard has not been with the team this year after opting to serve an LDS Church mission. After returning early, he will join BYU next season.

y´ Senior guard Mike Hall leads BYU in scoring at 13.6 ppg. Sophomore point guard Austin Ainge contributes 9.6 ppg. Ainge leads BYU with 4.0 assists (3rd in MWC both overall and in league games with 4.5). Sophomore transfer Keena Young pulls down a team-best 5.6 rebounds but is out of action with a broken hand. Sophomore center Derek Dawes adds 4.7 rpg. Jared Jensen is No. 4 in the MWC in FG (.566) and FT (.836) percentage.

LOOKING AT UNLV

The Runnin' Rebels are 14-12 on the season and 6-7 in the Mountain West Conference heading into Saturday's final regular-season game. UNLV is 5-6 on the road including a 3-3 mark in road MWC play. The Rebels are led by 6-7 senior forward Odartey Blankson, who averages 18.2 points per game, which is fourth in the MWC. A 2004 USBWA All-District VIII Team selection, Blankson also leads the team and is fifth in the league with 8.3 rebounds per game. Senior Romel Beck, an All-MWC Honorable Mention pick last season, is second on the team in scoring with 13.9 ppg, which is eighth in the conference. Senior Jerel Blassingame, another 2004 All-District selection, is third for the Rebels in scoring with 9.3 ppg. The 5-10 guard also leads the league and is 23rd in the nation in assists per game, averaging 5.8. Junior Louis Amundson has come on strong this season, averaging 8.3 ppg while coming in second for the Rebels in rebounds with 8.1 per outing, which is sixth in the MWC. Amundson also shoots 54.8 percent from the floor, which is seventh in the league. As a team, UNLV shoots 44.5 percent from the field, including 34.3 percent from three-point range, while averaging 73.2 points per game, which is second in the conference. The Rebels allow their opponents to shoot 43.5 percent with a 33.9 percent efficiency from beyond the arc while averaging 72.6 points per game. UNLV also averages 37 rebounds per game while allowing its opponents to pull down 35.8 boards per outing. First-year Rebel head coach Lon Kruger owns a 332-245 record in his 19th season overall.

LAST OUTING - REBELS FALL TO LOBOS

LAS -- Danny Granger scored a game-high 22 points along with eight rebounds to lead New Mexico to a 77-66 win over UNLV on Monday night. Granger scored 15 second-half points as the Lobos won their fifth consecutive game and eighth in nine tries. Also for New Mexico (22-6, 9-4 Mountain West), Troy DeVries scored 18 points, going 6 of 8 from 3-point range. David Chiotti had 18 points, going 7 of 9 from the field, and Mark Walters added 14 points, going 9 of 11 from the free throw line. The Lobos were 10-for-20 from 3-point range for 50 percent, while the Rebels were 8-for-24 for 33 percent. From the field, New Mexico shot 58 percent compared with UNLV's 40 percent. New Mexico never trailed after leading 29-24 at halftime. For UNLV (14-12, 6-7), Odartey Blankson led with 20 points and eight rebounds. Michael Umeh had 18 points and Romel Beck added 10 points. The Rebels cut the lead to 37-36 with 13:46 left in the game, but New Mexico pulled away, eventually building its largest lead at 64-47 with 4:50 remaining. UNLV later cut the lead to seven on two occasions in the final 1:21 but came no closer.

UNLV'S PROJECTED STARTERS

Pos. # Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG

F 0 Odartey Blankson 6-7 220 Sr. 18.2 8.3

F 22 Louis Amundson 6-9 230 Jr. 8.3 8.1

G 1 Romel Beck 6-7 185 Sr. 13.9 2.6

G 3 Michael Umeh 6-2 185 So. 8.8 2.3

G 10 Jerel Blassingame 5-10 170 Sr. 9.3 1.8

BYU SERIES RECORD VS. UNLV

Overall Series Record: BYU leads 10-8

BYU Record in Provo: 6-2

BYU Record in Las Vegas: 4-6

BYU Record at Neutral Sites: 0-0

BYU Record under Steve Cleveland: 8-4

BYU Record in Overtime Games: 2-0

Last OT Game: 2005, won in Las Vegas, 82-72

Longest BYU Win Streak: 3 (2004-present)

Longest UNLV Win Streak: 4 (1981-98)

Largest BYU Margin of Victory: 28, 91-63 in 2001

Largest UNLV Margin of Victory: 23, 79-56 in 2000

Most Points Scored by BYU: 92 in 1981

Most Points Scored by UNLV: 90 in 1981

SERIES NOTES

This will be the 19th meeting in the series between the two schools that dates back to 1981. The series has been a close one with BYU owning a slight 10-8 advantage by virtue of sweeping the season series last year and getting an overtime victory this season in Las Vegas. With those three wins, BYU is currently enjoying its longest series win streak. The series has been tied six times over the years, and the two teams split the regular season series with home wins each of the prior three years. The Cougars won the first two meetings in the series in 1981 before the Rebels ran off four straight victories. Prior to last season, the last time the Cougars swept the regular season series was in 1999-2000. The Rebels came back that year to achieve their largest margin of victory over BYU (23 points) in the title game of the 2000 MWC Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center. BYU is 6-2 in Provo against UNLV and 4-6 in Las Vegas against the Rebels. BYU has won eight of the 12 games as MWC opponents.

KRUGER PLAYED IN BYU'S FIRST GAME IN THE MARRIOTT CENTER

UNLV coach Lon Kruger played against BYU as a member of the Kansas State Wildcats in BYU's first-ever game in the Marriott Center on Dec. 3, 1971. Kruger scored eight points in BYU's 78-72 victory, with Cougar star Kresimir Cosic totaling 30 points in front of 22,652 Cougar faithful. Kansas State went on to win the first of consecutive BIg Eight titles that season with Kruger being named the Big Eight Sophomore of the Year. He was honored as the BIg Eight's Player of the Year his final two seasons in 1973 and 1974.

THIS YEAR AT UNLV -- BALDERSON SCORES BIG, ainge steps up in overtime in COUGAR VICTORY

LAS -- Jimmy Balderson ignited the Cougars Saturday, scoring a career-high 23 points to overcome a tough UNLV team in overtime, 82-72, in the Thomas & Mack Center. BYU point guard Austin Ainge led the way in overtime, adding 12 of his 19 points and dishing out five assists. The Cougars battled hard against the Rebels, holding on to a small lead for nearly 14 minutes of the first half. The Cougars were carried by sophomore guard Balderson, who hit three three-pointers and finished the half with 11 points. Late in the half, UNLV's Odartey Blankson scored on a lay-up to give the Rebels a one-point advantage, which they extended to a 33-27 halftime lead. In the second half, the Cougars capitalized on a Mike Hall three-pointer and two more long-bombs from Balderson to regain the lead, 39-37. The Rebels would quickly regain their lead by sensational play from senior forward Blankson, who finished with a career-high 33 points and 13 rebounds. In the last two minutes of play, the Cougars went on a 6-0 run to only trail by one, 60-61 with 18.9 seconds on the clock. With less than 10 seconds to go, BYU center Derek Dawes missed a jump-hook, but Balderson came up with the rebound and was fouled on a three-point shot. Balderson made all three free throws to give BYU a 63-61 lead with 5.6 seconds left. However, UNLV's Jerel Blassingame drove to the basket and connected on a lay-up to send the game into overtime. BYU jumped on the Rebels to start the extra period, led by sophomore Ainge, who helped lift the Cougars to an eight-point lead. The Rebels never recovered from the Cougars' dominating play and 83.3 percent shooting in O.T., falling even with BYU at 2-5 in league play. Hall added 16 points for BYU, while Keena Young scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds. BYU finished the game shooting 40.7 percent.

WHAT BYU COACH STEVE CLEVELAND HAD TO SAY AFTER THE GAME AT UNLV THIS YEAR

"This group has had to overcome a lot this season and to win on the road here is just what the doctor ordered."

LAST YEAR AT BYU -- HALL'S LATE HEROICS SEAL VICTORY FOR BYU

PROVO -- Mike Hall's block of Demetrius Hunter and two free throws with 2.7 seconds left helped the Cougars seal a 64-61 victory over UNLV Saturday afternoon at the Marriott Center. Cleveland said he was pleased with his team's performance, even though the game wasn't very pretty. He said he felt his team showed a lot of toughness and resolve in winning the close contest. Both teams started the game off cold with BYU making only three field goals in the first 10 minutes, falling behind 10-7, before reeling off a 16-4 run to take a nine-point lead with just over five minutes to play in the first half. During the run, Hall and Rafael Araujo scored six points each while Mark Bigelow added four. The Cougars would extend their lead to 11 points in the opening half before the Rebels cut it back down to nine at the break. UNLV came out of the locker room determined, cutting the BYU's lead to just one at 40-39, before the Cougars ran off nine straight points to extend their advantage to 10 points. But the Rebels were not going to go away. UNLV kept the game close and eventually took the lead at 61-60 on two Odartey Blankson free throws with 41 seconds to go. BYU would reclaim the lead for good at 62-61 on two Bigelow free throws, setting the stage for Hall's heroics to put the game away. BYU shot 87.5 percent from the line, including a perfect 10-for-10 for Hall and 4-of-4 from Luiz Lemes. Araujo led the Cougars in scoring, finishing the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds to record his 12th double-double of the season, and Lemes added a career-high 10 assists. Araujo is now tied for fourth nationally in double-double games, while Lemes becomes the first Cougar to record double-digit assists since BYU all-time assist leader Matt Montague dished out 12 vs. UC Irvine in 2002. On the strength of his free throw shooting, Hall added 16 points while Bigelow chipped in 13. UNLV was led by Blankson's 15-point, 12-rebound performance. J.K. Edwards also added a double-double for the Rebels with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while UNLV point guard Jarel Blassingame scored 12 points and dished out a team-leading five assists. With the victory BYU improves to 3-4 in conference and 13-7 overall, ending a three-game losing skid. UNLV falls to 12-7 and 3-4.

WHAT COACH STEVE CLEVELAND HAD TO SAY AFTER THE GAME IN PROVO LAST YEAR ...

"I thought it (Mike Hall's block) was a great individual effort. Someone has to make plays at the end to win a close game. I thought it was the most meaningful play of the game. A win like this means a lot more than coming in and winning by 15 (the Cougars had won their prior eight home games last year by an average of 24 points, with the closest margin being 14). Hopefully something like this will give us the confidence we need to get back playing well."

BYU's LAST OUTING - UTES TOP COUGARS

SALT LAKE -- Despite a fast start, BYU lost an early lead and the game to in-state rival Utah, 69-60, Saturday in the Huntsman Center. The loss drops the Cougars to 9-19, 3-10 in Mountain West Conference play, while the No. 12 Utes improve to 24-4 and 12-1 in the MWC. "Our aggression level was good. We competed," BYU coach Steve Cleveland said. "A coach can't be upset with this kind of effort." BYU came out scrappy and very aggressive, taking an early 20-9 lead, while holding Utah to a 1-for-10 shooting start. Foul shots kept the Utes in the game early. Utah had 16 first half foul shots compared to BYU's two. Foul shooting helped propel a Ute 20-9 run to end the first half. Over the final 2:21 of the first half, Utah scored the last seven points to tie the Cougars at the half, 29-29. Associate head coach Dave Rose was encouraged with the way the Cougars came out after their demoralizing loss at Air Force. "The guys were able to bounce back, and had a good week in practice," he said. "It's just a shame we weren't able to take advantage of that early lead." Utah pulled away in the second half, going on a 21-9 in the first eight minutes of the second half to stretch the lead to 50-38. The Cougars put together a small run to cut the Utes' lead to five, 56-51. Utah was able to overcome the late surge to win the game by nine. Rose credits Utah for its ability to execute in the second half. "You have to give a lot of credit to Utah for their patience and execution in their half-court offense in the second half," Rose said. Austin Ainge led the way for the Cougars with 17 points in the losing cause. Walk-on Brock Reichner had a career-high 9 points on 3-for-3 shooting, including 2-for-2 from three-point range. Bogut led the Utes with 26 points. Justin Hawkins added 21.

LINEUPS AND INJURIES A PLENTY FOR COUGARS

The Cougars have used 18 different starting lineups this year with 12 different Cougars receiving a starting assignment. Due to injuries, BYU played the last three games with eight scholarship players among its 11 players currently available. Seven players have missed time due to injury this year. After helping BYU to a 3-3 record in six straight starts, the team's leading rebounder Keena Young became the most recent Cougar to go down (broken hand), missing the past three games. He is out for the year. Garner Meads is also out for the rest of the season with a leg injury, missing the last six games and 11 overall.

JENSEN HAD HOT HAND AT UNM

Jared Jensen went 9-of-10 from the floor to score 20 points in 21 minutes of play, despite missing practice with the flu and not feeling 100 percent in the Pit against UNM. His nine field goals made is a new career high. BYU lost for only the second time in the seven games this year when Jensen has taken at least eight shot attempts. Jensen leads the team and is fourth in the conference in both field goal (.566) and free throw (.836) accuracy.

COUGARS AMONG STATISTICAL LEADERS

Jared Jensen is fourth among MWC players in field goal (.566) and free throw (.836) percentage. Austin Ainge is No. 3 in overall assists (4.0) and assists in league games (4.5). Mike Hall ranks No. 5 in steals (1.5) and No. 4 in thefts in MWC games (1.7) while also ranking No. 8 in scoring (13.8) in league games. Jimmy Balderson ranks fifth in three-point percentage overall (.437) and fourth in MWC games (.458) while Mike Rose is No. 7 in overall games in three point percentage (.398) and is No. 3 in most threes made overall (53).

SHOOTING BAROMETER

BYU is 9-1 when the Cougars have the better shooting percentage. BYU is 4-2 when shooting 50 percent or above, suffering both losses in the last two games (at UNM, at Utah). At New Mexico, the Cougars shot 55 percent, their highest percentage during MWC play. The Lobos made 62 percent from the floor and 68.4 percent on threes, both highs by a BYU opponent this year. After its loss at Utah, BYU is now 0-6 when its opposition makes 50 percent or better and is 0-18 this season when being outshot. BYU made an even 50 percent at Utah while the Utes shot 58.5 percent.

DAWES NAMED MWC PLAYER OF THE WEEK (Jan. 31)

Sophomore center Derek Dawes earned MWC Player of the Week honors on Jan. 31 for his career night against New Mexico, marking the first award of his career. The 6-foot-11 Dawes set career bests of 14 points, 6-of-7 (.857) shooting, and 4 blocks while tying career marks of 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal in the victory. He was also perfect from the free-throw line (2-2) in 32 minutes of action. After his only missed shot of the game, Dawes used his hustle to regain the Cougar possession by stealing a Lobo pass. Dawes' energy and effort in the post led the Cougars to a 68-53 win over the Lobos, their first MWC win of the season. The 14-point, 10-rebound double-double was the first of his career.

CLEVELAND NOW NO. 4 IN ALL-TIME WINS, NO. 2 ON MARRIOTT CENTER VICTORIES, NO. 1 IN MWC WINS

With a 138-106 overall record in his eighth season in Provo, BYU coach Steve Cleveland is fourth on BYU's career coaching victories list and is 15 wins from moving into second. Cleveland passed Frank Arnold (1975-83) with his victory over Colorado State in Provo on Feb. 14. Legendary Cougar coach Stan Watts has the most wins in school history with 372 triumphs from 1949-72. Ott Romney (1927-35) and Roger Reid (1989-96) both achieved 152 victories. Cleveland has guided BYU to the second-most Marriott Center wins and needs three more to have the most ever by a BYU coach. With his 90-25 record in the Cougars' home arena, he is currently second behind Roger Reid, who has 92 Marriott Center wins. Cleveland has 48 MWC wins, sharing top honors with Wyoming's Steve McClain.

DOUBLE-FIGURE POINTS

BYU has struggled to receive consistent performances from its young roster this season, a significant reason for its 9-19 record despite being competitive in most games. The Cougars have proven a strong team when more than two players have been able to put up double-digit points in a game. BYU has had 11 games this year when three or more players scored in double figures and the Cougars are 8-3 in those games. When two or fewer Cougars reach double figures, however, BYU is a mere 1-16. The impact of not having at least three players consistently stepping up offensively in a given game has been significant when considering the fact that BYU has lost 10 games by single-digit margins, including five by three points or less.

BYU SEED AT MWC TOURNAMENT

BYU will be the No. 7 seed and face No. 2-seed New Mexico if New Mexico defeats Colorado State in Albuquerque Saturday night. If the Rams upset the Lobos, BYU will be the No. 8 seed and will play MWC regular-season champion Utah in the opening round.

LOOKING TO EVEN RECORD AT HOME

BYU is 6-7 at home this year entering its home finale against UNLV Saturday. Since opening the Marriott Center for the 1971-72 season, BYU has had only two losing campaigns at home (1-13 in 1996-97 and 4-10 in 1997-98) and one .500 record (6-6 in 1976-77) while boasting 30 winning seasons.

AINGE LED BYU LAST WEEK

Austin Ainge led BYU last week by shooting 60 percent from the floor on 9-of-15 shooting, including 1-for-2 from 3-point range. He averaged 11 points in BYU's two games. Ainge scored a team-leading 17 points at No. 12 Utah as the Cougars fought the MWC champions before falling 69-60.

AINGE NOTABLES IN LEAGUE PLAY

-- Entering final league game, Ainge ranks No. 3 in assists among MWC players at 4.54 assists per game and ranks 13th in free throw percentage (.771) and seventh in assist/turnover ratio (1.31).

-- Leads BYU in assists (4.54) and is second in scoring (10.0), steals (1.0), free throw percentage (.771) and third in three-point shots made (1.15).

-- Has led BYU in assists in 12 of 13 conference games while also leading BYU in steals four times, scoring three times and rebounds twice.

-- Has eight games with at least five assists.

-- Has scored in double figures in six of 13 conference games, including four games with 15 or more points.

-- Scored career-high 25 points at Colorado State, making a career-best 5 three-point shots, while adding 6 assists and 3 rebounds. At Utah led BYU with 17 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds.

-- Scored 12 points in overtime and finished with 19 in the game to lead BYU on a 10-2 run to begin overtime at UNLV as BYU outscored UNLV 19-9 in overtime for the road win.

HALL NOTABLES IN LEAGUE PLAY

-- Entering Saturday's final conference game, Hall is ranking eighth in scoring (13.7), tied for fourth in steals (1.69), ninth in 3-point shots made (1.62), 11th in free throw percentage (.782) and tied for 14th in blocked shots (0.54).

-- He leads BYU in scoring (13.7), steals (1.69), free throw percentage (.782) and is second in assists (1.62) and three-point shots made (21) and third in blocks (7).

-- Has scored in double figures in 10 of 13 conference games, including seven games with 16 or more points.

-- Scored career-high 24 points at San Diego State, making 8-of-12 shots, including 4-for-4 on three-point attempts (is one of only three MWC players to go 4-for-4 from behind the arc in a game).

-- Had two of the league's five conference-best 5-steal performances. Tied career high of 5 steals vs. Colorado State and at UNLV, both Cougar wins. His two steals in the final 3 minutes at UNLV helped the Cougars erase a six-point deficit and force overtime, where he hit a big three in the BYU win.

-- Guarded the opponent's top perimeter player and has defended positions 1-4. Has held players he guarded to a combined 38 percent shooting from the floor and a mere 20 percent accuracy from three-point range.

HALL, JENSEN, NASHIF PLAYING FINAL HOME GAMES

BYU has three seniors on this year's team. Point guard Terry Nashif, guard/forward Mike Hall and forward/center Jared Jensen will be playing their final games in the Marriott Center Saturday against UNLV. Jensen has played in 118 games (currently tied for 15th all-time at BYU) as a Cougar, including 78 starts, during his four-year career in Provo. Nashif has played in 102 games in his four-year BYU career, including 8 starts. Hall has started 57 of the 59 games he has played since joining the Cougars for his final two seasons after transferring from Dixie State College.

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