BYU All-America candidate Jimmer Fredette is the biggest reason why the Cougars have aspirations for a deep postseason run.
However, Fredette and BYU have struggled in Las Vegas recently.The 15th-ranked Cougars look to win in Las Vegas for the first time in nearly six years Wednesday night when they take on No. 25 UNLV in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.Fredette, a preseason All-American and 2009-10 honorable mention selection, ranks third in the nation with 24.1 points per game. The senior guard has yet to win in Las Vegas in five tries, though, and is averaging only 14.9 points on 35.6-percent shooting in eight career meetings with the Runnin' Rebels.BYU (14-1) lost twice to UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center last season, including a 70-66 defeat in the conference tournament semifinals despite 30 points from Fredette.The Cougars haven't won at UNLV since an 82-72 overtime victory Feb. 5, 2005.Fredette tied a season-low with 13 points Saturday in a 93-57 victory against Fresno Pacific, though he only played 22 minutes in the rout. Jackson Emery, who added 12 points, is three steals shy of Danny Ainge's 30-year-old school record of 195 in a career."Jackson's work ethic is a big part of the success that he's had," coach Dave Rose said. "You don't get very many players that play at the same speed everyday in practice that they play in a game so Jackson practices at a really high level."Emery ranks second on the Cougars behind Fredette with 11.8 points per game.UNLV is the first ranked opponent this season for BYU. That could be a bad omen, as the Cougars have dropped seven straight to opponents in the Top 25 since a 78-76 victory over then-No. 6 Louisville on Nov. 23, 2007."I was a little nervous to see how we'd come out and play after all the travel and the holidays," Rose said after Saturday's win. "Now we're ready to move on and start league play."While the Cougars remain relatively untested, the Rebels (12-2) have faced two teams in the Top 25, including a 63-59 win over then-No. 11 Kansas State on Dec. 21. UNLV fell 77-69 to then-No. 24 Louisville on Dec. 11.Tre'Von Willis, who is averaging 11.3 points this season but has scored 19.6 per game in five career meetings with BYU, had a team-high 15 in Friday's 73-47 victory over Central Michigan.The Rebels have held opponents below 60 points in eight of their 14 games."They do understand that we've got to keep getting better," coach Lon Kruger said. "Teams in the (Mountain West) are playing at a very high level, and any team in the league that doesn't keep making progress is going to fall behind. That's the challenge."UNLV is 35-5 at home in regular-season conference games since the 2005-06 season.