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Heartbreak in Las Vegas: BYU loses to UNLV on OT buzzer beater

After getting down by 17 in the first half, the Cougars fought back to take the lead with two minutes to go in regulation, but couldn’t hold on and faced crushing defeat in overtime.

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at St. Mary’s
Yoeli Childs scored 25 points in the Cougar’s overtime loss to UNLV.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Back in the Mountain West Conference days, the BYU-UNLV matchups were usually intense, emotional battles. Eight years later, not much has changed—a close loss to the Rebels in Las Vegas feels just as awful today as it did then. The rivalry is not dead.

The last time the Cougars played the Rebels, Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery headlined, their combined 13 three pointers leading the way to an 89-77 victory at the Thomas & Mack Center.

This time around, on a “neutral court” in Las Vegas, it was UNLV who was red hot from the three point line. Five different Rebels hit nine threes in the first half as they shot 56 percent from behind the arc. On the other end of the floor, the Rebels’ length and aggression on defense led to six steals and two blocks, and kept BYU from getting open looks from three—it shot only four times and only made one (thanks, Connor Harding).

The Cougars didn’t fare any better from the stripe, getting only five attempts to UNLV’s eleven, and making only one of them (thanks, Dalton Nixon), while UNLV made eight.

With about three minutes until halftime, TJ Haws assisted Yoeli Childs on a layup to cut UNLV’s lead to 30-38. But on the other end, Haws, who was 3-3 from the field to that point, banged his right knee hard into UNLV’s Kris Clyburn’s and left the game. He returned for the last 20 seconds of the half, but the Cougars didn’t score again. The Rebels opened up a 17-point lead to go up 47-30 after the first 20 minutes of play.

The second half was a different story.

In the first few minutes, Haws and Seljaas hit their first three pointers of the night, and Jashire Hardnett completed a three point play the old fashioned way. The Cougars came out more aggressive on defense, forcing turnovers, closing out better on shooters and evening up the rebounding battle. Yoeli Childs came alive in the second half, scoring 14 points to go with his eight from the first half.

Nick Emery’s three pointer and lay-up with about nine minutes to go cut the lead down to seven, and then TJ hit a pair of free throws to make it only five. A quick transition dunk from Dalton Nixon and a bucket from Childs made it 70-69 with 5:11 to go. The Rebels hit another three to go up 75-71, but a one-handed dunk from Childs cut it back to a one-possession game.

UNLV’s leading scorer (at the time) Clyburn fouled out with 3:43 to go. The teams traded buckets and free throws until a loose ball led to an and-1 play by Jashire Harnett to give the Cougars its first lead since early in the first half at 83-81 with 2:22 to play. The Rebels tied it up with a pair of free throws with 27.8 seconds left. The Cougars couldn’t score on a last second three from Zac Seljaas and the teams went to overtime.

Childs had the first bucket of extra time, but UNLV tied it up again with their 24th and 25th made free throws, then took the lead with 1:40 to go. Childs’ first free throw attempts of the game came with 1:25 to go in overtime, and he made one of them to put the score at 87-86. Childs assisted Haws on a layup to go up one with 52.2 seconds left. UNLV made another pair of free throws, then Hardnett made another layup to regain the lead, 90-89 with 14 seconds left.

On the last possession, UNLV ran down the clock before Noah Robotham sank the buzzer-beating dagger from three to give the Rebels the victory, 92-89. It was a valiant effort by the Cougars to fight for the win, but in the end, they couldn’t overcome that abysmal first half, and another BYU Basketball game ended in frustrating heartbreak.

Yoeli Childs led BYU’s scorers with 25 points and 11 rebounds. TJ Haws and Jashire Hardnett added 19 apiece, and Seljaas and Emery finished with 10 and 9, respectively.

BYU has a week to rest before making the trek to Viejas Arena to take on another old Mountain West Conference foe, San Diego State, on Saturday, December 22 at 5 p.m. MST.