BYU-UNLV: Rebels Start Hot, Tre'Von Willis Outduels Jimmer Fredette

David MortimerContributor IIFebruary 6, 2010

LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 26:  Tre'Von Willis #33 of the UNLV Rebels celebrates the Rebels 60-50 victory over the Air Force Falcons with fans at the Thomas & Mack Center January 26, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nearly all the national attention the Mountain West Conference has garnered this season has been a result of MWC preseason player of the year, BYU's Jimmer Fredette.

Saturday, UNLV's Tre'Von Willis delivered nothing short of an attention-grabbing performance.

Willis exploded for a career-high 33 points, plus eight assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block to pace UNLV's impressive 88-74 win over BYU at the Thomas and Mack Center.

Willis made 11 of his 20 shots from the field, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Matt Shaw (13) and Oscar Bellfield (12) also finished in double digits for UNLV, who climbed into a first-place tie with BYU in the MWC standings.

The Rebels (19-4, 7-2 MWC) dominated from the beginning with a 20-4 run in the game's first six minutes. In all, UNLV shot 9-of-13 from three-point range in the first half to take a 56-34 lead into halftime.

BYU (22-3, 7-2 MWC) cut the lead to 13 with 14:34 left in the second half, but could not recover from its 38.1 percent shooting performance. Fredette, who shot 4-of-15 from the field, finished with 21 points--11 of which came from the foul line.

Fredette also pitched in seven rebounds, six assists and two steals, but did not receive much help from his teammates.

The Cougars' starting five made only 12 of their 41 shots from the field, including 3-of-17 from long range. Jonathan Tavernari led the BYU bench with 16 points and seven rebounds.

Including MWC tournament games, BYU has now lost seven straight to the Rebels in Las Vegas. The Cougars have a week to recover before Air Force visits Provo next Saturday.

UNLV, meanwhile, has won seven of their last eight games. The Rebels play another crucial game Wednesday night, when they host fellow MWC frontrunner New Mexico.