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Provo • On a day when superstar guard Jimmer Fredette wasn't at his best and they gave up offensive rebounds like tickets to the upper section of the Marriott Center while shooting poorly for the third-straight game, the No. 8 BYU Cougars still managed to hold off revenge-minded UNLV to sweep the Rebels for the first time since 2004.
"Our defense did it for us," said BYU guard Jackson Emery, after the Cougars overcame a big rebounding deficit and their own 40 percent shooting to handle the Rebels 78-64 in front of another sellout crowd of 22,700 in Provo.
Fredette still scored 29 points to increase his national scoring lead and became the Mountain West Conference's all-time scoring leader with 2,194, but was 6 for 14 from the field and needed a 16-for-16 effort from the free-throw line to get more than his average (27.6).
Emery added 15, while Stephen Rogers (12) and Charles Abouo (10) provided some much-needed help off the bench because Brandon Davies again was limited by foul trouble and Kyle Collinsworth left the game for good early in the second half with a probable concussion.
It all added up to another double-digit MWC win, improving the Cougars' league record to 8-1 and overall mark to 22-2.
"This team is made up of competitive guys," said BYU coach Dave Rose after getting the first two-game winning streak over UNLV (17-6, 5-4) in his six-year career. "They rely on each other and trust each other, so when it's time to make a play, they feel responsible to figure out a way to make that play. They did that on both ends of the floor today in critical times."
It was the typical UNLV-BYU game: intense, scrappy, chippy at times and full of pressure defense from UNLV, which guarded Fredette on every inch of the court, doubled him most of the time and tried to deny him the ball for the entire 40 minutes.
He answered with seven assists, setting up his teammates time and again for easy baskets. The Cougars had just 12 turnovers, a total they will take against UNLV.
"Teams are playing me very, very tough, and I realize that," said Fredette, who battled a head cold that he said made it hard for him to breathe, at times. "They are going to hack you and double-team you the whole entire game. … My teammates did a great job of just making plays, and they couldn't stop us."
The Cougars won, though, because their zone defense which they employed almost the entire game held UNLV to 30 percent shooting. The Rebels couldn't use a 43-34 rebounding edge, including 17 on the offensive glass, to their advantage because they were 18 of 60 from the field.
"We didn't shoot the ball very well," said UNLV coach Lon Kruger. "We shot better in the second half but just gave up too many big plays on the fast break."
Anthony Marshall led UNLV with 16 points, but a 1-for-11 effort from fellow guard Oscar Bellfield was especially damaging.
And the Cougars were almost perfect from the free-throw line (24 of 25), which included four technical free throws for Fredette in the first half when Rebels Quintrell Thomas and Carlos Lopez lost their cool.
"For a game where shooting percentages for both teams were a little low, it was a well-played, hard-fought game," said Rose. "Both teams competed really well, and it was physical."
After taking a 38-27 lead at the half, the Cougars finally put it away with 6 minutes, 50 seconds remaining when Fredette hit his first and only 3-pointer. He added a three-point play three minutes later to pass former San Diego State star Brandon Heath for the league career-scoring record.
"Our bench was huge," Fredette said. "I thought that was the key to the game."
R No. 8 BYU sweeps UNLV in the regular season for the first time since 2004, cruising past the Rebels at the Marriott Center.