The UNLV Lady Rebels needed a comeback effort to beat the Pacific Tigers in the team’s latest outing.
UNLV beat Pacific, 80-79, Saturday, Dec. 18 from the Cox Pavilion in the team’s first home game in nearly three weeks.
“Honestly [we didn’t respond] great,” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “We looked a little like we were already on Christmas break out there in the first half. But I thought our crowd responded today, we had a great crowd.”
“They were into it frankly when we didn’t give them much to cheer about.”
Now the Lady Rebels are 7-3 on the year with one more non-conference game to play before the start of Mountain West play.
That game will be played against Hawaii Tuesday, Dec. 21 from the Cox Pavilion.
“We’ve conference play coming and it’s a whole new season,” La Rocque said. “With a whole other level of intensity each individual game so I’m excited that we have another opportunity to get better. Obviously, a lot of different mistakes were made today but we have to keep getting better. Knowing the competition that’s coming, we have to get better tomorrow and the day after so we can play better against Hawaii.”
Junior guard Essence Booker owned the last 64 seconds of the game as she scored the eventual game-winning basket on a jump shot from the elbow.
“Honestly, she was really struggling all game,” La Rocque said. “I had to kind of pull her in and out a few different times especially in that first half. She just was just out of it and she knew it, she was trying to fight her way out of it and claw out of it.
“And that just happens sometimes so credit her teammates for picking her up. But ultimately, we need her. So when the game is on the line and we need to have the ball in someone’s hands, we’re most confident with her, we trust her.”
Booker finished with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting to go along with four assists.
Immediately following the go-ahead bucket, she sat in her defensive stance and forced a turnover with seven seconds left.
“[It was] just more effort,” sophomore center Desi-Rae Young said. “It took all of us. She said, ‘I just need everyone to be together.’ She just said, ‘I need help,’ so we all went in and helped her out. That’s what we have to do as a team.”
Playing against a 2-7 Pacific team that had lost six straight games provided a tough test for UNLV.
UNLV needed an 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to secure its first lead of the game on a three-pointer from freshman guard Alyssa Durazo-Frescas.
“Pacific is a really good team,” La Roqcue said. “[The Tigers have] been on a little skid here but they’ve played A) Really good teams and B) They've been in close games. So I kind of had a feeling, unfortunately, that it was going to be another close game.”
In the first half, the Tigers built a lead as large as 17 points.
Nearly three and a half minutes into the game, the Lady Rebels were still without a field goal.
Young and the UNLV bench as a whole were both assessed technical fouls.
It marked the first technical foul in the coaching career of Lindy La Rocque.
“It’s my first technical of my young coaching career,” she said. “It’s probably one I’m not very proud of to be honest. There’s a time and a place to try and get your team motivated and create some passion and energy but honestly I’m not proud of it because I think it back-fired totally.”
The lead got as large as 19 points for Pacific but UNLV went into halftime down 17.
“I’m not sure I’m allowed to say [what I said during halftime],” La Rocque said. “We have to do the things that we can control like playing hard, playing in control, playing together and talking. Then we can get connected on defense and again we were totally out of sync in the first half and I put some of that on me. A lot of it on me.” Young admitted after the game that the halftime pep talk was necessary for the team. “We did need a pep talk because coach definitely gave it to us for sure,” Young said. “She just said it was all effort about us. A rebound, that’s effort; making a free throw, that’s effort; making a layup, that’s effort. Just doing what we can control, we can’t control the refs, we can’t control other things that people say or do, we can only control us.”
It must’ve worked because the Lady Rebels responded with a 30-point third quarter after scoring 31 in the first half total.
A 10-0 run in the third frame got the deficit down to six for UNLV. Eventually, it would dip all the way down to three points.
Young tied her career-high in the third quarter with 22 points and even turned heads when she dove on the hardwood for a loose ball.
Late in the first half, Young passed up on a chance to hit the deck for a loose ball.
“Like I said, it was just effort,” she said. “Me going after it – I knew I should have just caught it. It did touch my hands. That’s something that I can control, catching the ball.”
Young finished with a new career-high 24 points on 10-of-17 from the field with nine rebounds in 28 minutes of action.