LAS VEGAS — It had been seven years since BYU and UNLV had met on the basketball court.
Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena, the two teams made up for lost time, producing a memorable game with a dramatic finish.
Runnin’ Rebel guard Noah Robotham knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to lift UNLV to a 92-90 victory over the Cougars.
It was a heartbreaking loss for BYU, which lost another close overtime game a couple of weeks ago at Illinois State.
The Cougars (8-5) saw their three-game winning streak come to an end while the Rebels (5-4) snapped their three-game losing streak.
"I really feel for our guys because they left everything out there and they played their hearts out," coach Dave Rose said on BYU Radio. "How do you explain the first half? That's what we'll dissect the most because it wasn't like us."
The Cougars fell behind by double-digits in the first half and rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit. They had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Zac Seljaas’ 3-pointer at the buzzer missed.
"We got it all the way back and we got the lead. We had a shot in regulation to win it," Rose said. "It's one of those games where you feel as a coach and as a team that you should have won it. That's going to sting a little bit for the guys."
Going into the game, the Rebels were shooting only 27 percent from 3-point range, averaging about five 3s per game. Against BYU, UNLV hit 13 3-pointers, including Robotham’s game-winner.
"We kind of got a wounded bear here, a really good team that's a little bit underachieved and had three losses (in a row)," Rose said. "They came out and really shot the ball well. They had nine 3-pointers before you knew it. We made some adjustments and got into that zone. But when it came right down to it, it was probably that we (gave up) too many offensive rebounds."
The Cougars were led by Yoeli Childs, who scored a game-high 25 points, on 12-of-21 shooting from the field, and pulled down 11 rebounds. TJ Haws and Jahshire Hardnett chipped in 19 apiece.
Joel Ntambwe paced the Rebels with 22 points while Kris Clyburn and Amauri Hardy both scored 21 points.
BYU seized a 21-17 lead with 11 minutes left in the first half. But UNLV finished the half on a 30-9 run, taking a 47-30 advantage at halftime.
The Rebels made 6 of their first 9 3-pointers and were 9 of 16 in the first half.
The Cougars gradually whittled away at the deficit throughout the second half. Nick Emery came off the bench, gave his team an emotional lift and helped narrow the gap by drilling a big 3-pointer with 9:15 remaining. Emery finished with nine points and four rebounds.
A Seljaas 3-pointer brought BYU to within one point, 81-80, with 2:45 left. Moments later, the Cougars retook the lead for the first time since midway through the first half on Hardnett’s old-fashioned 3-pointer 83-81.
UNLV hit a couple of free throws to tie the game with 27.8 seconds. BYU tried to win the game on its final possession but Seljaas couldn’t hit the 3.
"We wanted to penetrate that thing because we had missed a few perimeter shots," Rose said of the final shot of regulation. "(UNLV) did a good job of locking it up. Nick got penetration and as he was penetrating, he realized he wasn't going to be able to beat his guy. Zac relocated from the corner to the wing, and Nick hit him and Zac had a pretty good look. It looked like it was straight on, but it hit the back of the rim."
In overtime, the Cougars had a couple of leads, including 88-87 after a Haws bucket, and 90-89 after a Hardnett layup with 18 seconds remaining.
UNLV looked for a final shot and got it when Robotham's 3 settled in the net as the final buzzer sounded.8 comments on this story
BYU shot 53 percent for the game but just 5 of 16 from 3-point range. The Rebels shot 44 percent from the field, including 13 of 27 from 3-point territory. UNLV hit 27 of 32 free throws while the Cougars were 13 of 20 from the charity stripe.
"Two weeks ago on a Saturday night (at Weber State), we were kind of in the same spot where we hadn't played a good first half," Rose said. "We couldn't find a formula to get ourselves back in the game. It ended up getting away from us. This will sting and this will really hurt. But I think we found something in there that our guys can relate to and get back to."
BYU visits San Diego State next Saturday.