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Dalton Nixon enjoys career day as BYU Cougars’ 3-point shooting, defense lead to dominating 83-50 victory over UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

BYU bounced back from its heartbreaking 102-95 overtime loss at Utah last Wednesday night, shooting 54 percent overall from the floor and limiting UNLV to 36 percent shooting. 

University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels forward Donnie Tillman (2) fouls Brigham Young Cougars forward Dalton Nixon (33) during the second half of a basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019.
University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels forward Donnie Tillman (2) fouls Brigham Young Cougars forward Dalton Nixon (33) during the second half of a basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019.
Colter Peterson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — BYU ranks among the nation’s top 3-point shooting teams and it showed why Saturday afternoon against UNLV.

But perhaps even more impressive than the 14 of 27 3-pointers that the Cougars hit Saturday at Vivint Smart Home Arena was their defense in an 83-50 thumping of the Runnin’ Rebels.

“We make shots. It’s what we do,” said coach Mark Pope. “I don’t think we were surprised by it. We work hard to shoot the ball.”

BYU bounced back from its heartbreaking 102-95 overtime loss at Utah last Wednesday night, shooting 54% overall from the floor and limiting UNLV to 35% shooting.

“The guys’ attention to the defense end, that was really crucial to responding to the debacle we had a couple of days ago,” Pope said.

And, along the way, the Cougars took out some of their frustrations suffered at the hands of their archrivals at the Huntsman Center. The Utes exploited BYU both inside and in transition.

“Today we wanted to come in and play with force and we wanted to play on attack,” said forward Dalton Nixon, who came off the bench to score a career-high and game-high 17 points. “Coming off of the tough loss at Utah, we wanted to find ourselves again. Early on, we established ourselves on the offensive end and then did a really good job of controlling the game with our energy on the defensive end.”

Forward Yoeli Childs, who missed crucial moments against Utah due to leg cramping, recorded a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

“We made a big emphasis after the Utah game to get back in transition defense,” Childs said. “We did a great job of it.”

BYU held UNLV’s leading scorer, Amauri Hardy, to nine points, eight below his season average.

“As we reflected on that Utah game, we told ourselves, ‘That’s not us,’” Nixon said. “We’re capable of being a really good defensive team. We showed signs of that throughout the game.”

Besides Nixon and Childs, two other BYU players scored in double figures — Alex Barcello (13) and Connor Harding (12).

Seven Cougars, including Nixon, knocked down 3-pointers against the Rebels — Barcello went 3 of 3, Nixon was 3 of 3, and Harding made 3 of 5.

Going into Saturday’s game, BYU ranked No. 14 nationally in 3-point shooting percentage (41%) and No. 6 in 3-pointers made (101).

BYU’s 14 3-pointers tied for the fourth-best single-game total in school history. In a win over Virginia Tech at the Maui Invitational, the Cougars tied a school record with 17 3-pointers and they hit 12 in the loss to Utah.

Saturday’s game was tied 5-5 in the opening minutes when BYU began a 3-point barrage over an 8-minute stretch. Barcello drilled a 3, then Harding nailed three during that stretch while Nixon and Trevin Knell added one apiece.

At that point, the Cougars seized a 28-13 lead as part of a 23-8 run.

“We have shooters across the board,” Nixon said. “We all trust each other. I was fortunate enough to find myself in some open spots to be able to knock down 3s … We have 3-point shooters on the floor all the time.”

“The coaching staff does a very good job of instilling confidence and they do a good job of making sure we get enough shots,” Childs said of his team’s 3-point prowess. “The guys really put in the work. I would bet that we took more 3s this summer on our own than just about anyone in the country.”

BYU (7-4) led by as many as 38 points in the second half.

The Cougars scored 24 points off Rebel turnovers. They outscored UNLV (4-7) on fast breaks, 16-1, and limited UNLV to 20 points in the paint.

“It feels really good to come back and win after a loss,” Childs said. “I think that’s something great teams can do — bounce back from losses and play together.”

“We showed that we’re a resilient group and that we can get better,” Nixon said.

BYU hosts Nevada Tuesday.