Provo • BYU has played six of its last seven on the road. During that span, TJ Haws nailed a buzzer-beater to edge Houston, the Cougars finished third in the Maui Invitational, had a dominating win over Montana Tech (the lone home game) and suffered two overtime losses — most recently at Utah.
The Cougars will again be nowhere near the Marriott Center when they play UNLV Saturday afternoon, but they will enjoy some of the comforts of home during their annual stop at Salt Lake City’s Vivint SmartHome Arena. As in, a loud, supportive crowd and NBA-level amenities.
It is the 14th-straight season BYU is playing at Vivint, the home of the Utah Jazz. And the Cougars have won 13 of those contests.
“We're just excited to play,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “We've been out of our building a lot recently, but it's a huge game and this Vegas team is a good team. They're getting better and they have some talented players. It's going to be a great challenge. It'll be fun to get back to playing.”
While BYU is entering having lost a heartbreaker at Utah, UNLV is coming off of a big conference victory.
The Rebels edged Fresno State 81-80 in double OT, marking the fourth time in their 10 games that they have played extra time.
The matchup will renew an old Mountain West rivalry — BYU has been doing a lot of that lately. The Cougars will also see a vaguely familiar face.
Former Utah forward Donnie Tillman will lead UNLV into Salt Lake City. The junior transfer piled up 28 points and eight rebounds against Fresno State, Wednesday, and he is averaging 12.6 points and 5.2 rebounds for the season.
Tillman played against the Cougars at Vivint last December in the Beehive Classic, scoring 10 points in a 74-59 loss. He was injured as a freshman in 2017, when BYU beat Utah in Provo.
Saturday's home-away-from-home game will also serve as a way for the Cougars to prepare for this year's upcoming Beehive Classic.
BYU will take on Utah State in the third annual in-state rivalry event.
“Every different venue to play in is a good opportunity for us to grow and get used to it,” Pope said. “So, hopefully, as we go through, we get to postseason play, hopefully we get a chance to play in venues like this. And so it’s always good to get into a different place and feel.”
One giant question mark for the Cougars is Yoeli Childs.
The senior forward made his season debut at Utah after sitting the first nine game because of an NCAA-mandated suspension. He was brilliant in his return, scoring 29 points, but left with an undisclosed injury with about five minutes remaining and did not return. A BYU spokesperson said Friday that Childs is “day-to-day,” putting his availability for Saturday in question.
BYU VS. UNLV
At Vivint SmartHome Arena, Salt Lake City
Tipoff » Saturday, 1 p.m. MT
TV » BYUtv
Radio » AM 1160, FM 102.7, Sirius 143
Records » BYU 6-4; UNLV 4-6
All-time series » UNLV leads 19-16
Last meeting » UNLV 92, BYU 90 (Dec. 15, 2018)
About BYU » The Cougars had four players score in the double digits at Utah. … Yoeli Childs made his 2019-20 season debut and scored 29 points on 12 of 16 shooting in 25 minutes. … Jake Toolson followed with 27 points on 9 of 15 shooting. … TJ Haws and Dalton Nixon fouled out late in the second half.
About UNLV » Former Ute forward Donnie Tillman led the Rebels over Fresno State with 28 points and eight rebounds. … Bryce Hamilton added 21 points and a team-best 14 rebounds. … It is coach T.J. Otzelberger’s first season at the helm of UNLV basketball. … Last season, the Rebels hosted the Cougars at T-Mobile Arena.