PROVO The Cougars are one win away from taking a solid lead in the Mountain West basketball race.
They'll find out if they're capable on Saturday when BYU hosts UNLV, a team that embarrassed the Cougars in Las Vegas last month with a 29-point spanking.
The Cougars are fresh off a 14-point win over Colorado State in Fort Collins, the seventh-straight win for Dave Rose's squad, which climbed to 19-5 overall and 8-1 in league play. The Rebels (19-5, 8-2) defeated Air Force 58-51 on Tuesday in Las Vegas.
"We made a goal as a team to take it one game at a time," said BYU junior Lee Cummard, who led the Cougars with 22 points in Wednesday's win. "We did that tonight and now we'll start working on the UNLV game."
Cummard's effort was his fourth game scoring 20 or more in the last five.
"We were embarrassed," Cummard said of he last UNLV game in the Thomas & Mack Center. "This is an important game. We want to prove we are not that team."
Cummard said the Cougars don't need to see tapes of the last meeting with the Rebels. "We'll probably see some film on it," he said, "but there isn't much we can take from that game other than mistakes we made."
Following the win over the Rams, Rose was very pleased with the balance and contribution by his freshmen in the victory.
"We got a really balanced game from our starting five. We knew coming into this that we wouldn't be able to get it done with just one or two guys. We had to be balanced, and we did a good job of that. Everyone scored. Trent (Plaisted) was terrific. Lee (Cummard) gave us some really big baskets at opportune times. Ben (Murdock) and Sam (Burgess) hit some big shots, and Jonathan (Tavernari) threw in a double-double," said Rose.
"The last couple weeks we've really made some strides playing together," Rose said of the CSU win. In that game, Rose declared, "We did a better job not only sharing the ball offensively, but having really good team defense. A lot of it comes from the fact that they're just naturally competitive players. They don't try to force things to get their own stats. It's a combined effort from a group of very competitive guys."The fact that we were able to play the five starters a lot of minutes tonight is the result of the fact that we had a week off. This is a tough place to play. I was proud of how those five came together in the second half and really competed down the stretch."
COUGAR NOTES: In the win over CSU, Ben Murdock's 13 points was a career high and Jonathan Tavernari's 10 rebounds tied his personal best ... At 8-1 in Mountain West Conference play, the Cougars are off to their best league start since going 8-1 in 1995 when BYU still played in the WAC. The Cougars' seven straight wins mark their longest winning streak of the season (at Utah, San Diego State, New Mexico, at Air Force, at Wyoming, TCU, at CSU). BYU has won at least six straight MWC games in each of Dave Rose's three seasons at the helm ... BYU picked up its fourth straight MWC road win with the victory at Colorado State, moving to 4-1 on the road in league play and 6-3 overall. BYU won five of its last seven road games last season and was the only MWC team with a winning road record in league play at 5-3.
On the air
BYU (19-5, 8-1) vs. UNLV (19-5, 8-2)
Saturday, 7 p.m.