There hasn't been a better team than BYU in the regular season during Mountain West Conference play over the past three seasons. If not for UNLV, the Cougars' record would be even more impressive.
Back in the Top 25 just in time to open their conference schedule, the 25th-ranked Cougars look to end their struggles against the Rebels on Wednesday night.
With nine straight wins, BYU (14-1) appears poised for a run at a fourth straight MWC regular-season title. The Cougars have a league-high 39 regular-season league wins since the start of 2006-07.
BYU, though, went 0-2 against UNLV last season before losing to San Diego State in the conference tournament semifinals. The Cougars have dropped eight of their last 11 against the Rebels (12-2), including defeats in the 2007 and '08 league title games.
UNLV hasn't played since a 67-56 loss to Southern California on Dec. 25, and it's facing a BYU team that is 8-0 at home.
The Cougars are averaging 96.6 points and shooting 61.1 percent over their last five games overall. BYU was dominant again despite missing its top two scorers Saturday night, beating Division II Eastern New Mexico 95-49.
"What comes next is even better, so we're excited," coach Dave Rose said of opening league play.
Rose was without Jimmer Fredette (strep throat) and Jackson Emery (bruised heel). Fredette is expected to return, but Emery's status is questionable.
Fredette is averaging 21.6 points and 5.6 assists while shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range. He's started 14 games in the backcourt with Emery, who posts 13.4 points and 4.4 rebounds a contest.
Emery has been one of the country's top shooters from beyond the arc, making 50.0 percent (39 for 78) of his attempts, but he's 1 for 8 in three games against the Rebels.
Senior Jonathan Tavernari stepped up in Emery's absence, finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds in his seventh start of the season. Lamont Morgan Jr. made his second career start in place of Fredette, adding six points and seven assists.
UNLV is led by its backcourt, with Tre'Von Willis averaging a team-high 14.5 points and Oscar Bellfield adding 11.1. Bellfield had 17 points against the Trojans, but the Rebels shot 34.0 percent (17 for 50) as they lost for the first time in six games.
Willis was held to a season-worst four points on 0-for-6 shooting as UNLV had its lowest-scoring game of the season.
The Rebels, though, had another strong performance defensively, holding their sixth straight opponent under 70 points. They limited the Cougars to 43.3 percent shooting in the two meetings last season, helping them improve to 16-13 in the series.
Defense and a deep bench have been UNLV's strengths. The Rebels have 11 players averaging at least 10.5 minutes, and nine have scored in double figures at least once.