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BYU vs. UNLV women: No introduction needed

The 2 teams meet for the 5th time in tourney play

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Oh, it's you again.

Such easily summarizes the thoughts of both BYU and UNLV as they meet tonight in their 8:30 p.m. pairing of the Mountain West Conference Women's Basketball Tournament.

These two not only met four days ago in Provo in their regular-season finale, but they have faced off in each of the four previous MWC Tournaments. Tonight's matchup between the sixth-seeded Cougars (15-13) and the third-seed Rebels (21-6) is the fourth such first-round meetings between the two in the league's five-year history.

The only exception: When BYU beat UNLV in the 2002 championship game — the year the Cougars won their only tournament title.

The Cougars have proven to be the Rebels' postseason nemesis, eliminating UNLV — the previous four-year tournament host — on its homecourt each time.

Not only has the tournament site changed — to Denver's Pepsi Center — but so has UNLV's fortunes this season. The Rebels beat the Cougars in both regular-season meetings, and posted a rare road sweep of Utah and BYU to end the season in earning their highest-ever MWC Tournament seeding.

UNLV coach Regina Miller has molded an inexperienced team around center Sherry McCracklin, the sole returning starter. "With a young team," Miller said, "you can either play out of your minds or fold."

McCracklin and Cougar killer RanDee Henry both earned first-team All-MWC honors and personal "of the year" awards as well — McCracklin as co-defensive player and Henry the newcomer.

"I don't like our opponent," said Judkins, who is worried about UNLV's inside-out and uptempo strengths but mindful the recent meeting helps with tournament preparation.

What the Cougars will need is a better performance, seeming on the brink of turning the corner throughout the season, only to suffer through close loss after close loss.

"As a team, we've had a hard year this year. I think we can use this tournament to change a lot of things," said Judkins, adding that the Cougars' tournament trend is "we just seem to put things together."

Miller calls BYU "a scary team . . . a danger," adding "they probably haven't achieved to their expectations to this point — and we don't want them to start now."

GAME NOTES: BYU is 9-3 all-time in the MWC Tournament; UNLV is 3-4 . . . BYU has reached the tourney finals in each of the four previous seasons . . . The Cougars' Julie Sullivan was a second-team selection to the all-MWC teams announced Monday. Teammates Ashleigh Chamberlain, Danielle Cheesman and Ambrosia Anderson were honorable mentions, as was UNLV's Sheena Moore.

BYU women on the air

2004 MWC Quarterfinals

No. 3 UNLV (21-6) vs. No. 6 BYU (15-13)

Today, 8:30 p.m.

TV: BYU TV (Dish, DirecTV)

Radio: BYU Radio

E-mail: taylor@desnews.com