Less than a week removed from meeting in the final regular season game of the year, UNLV pounded intra-state rival Nevada – Reno by more than 35 points in the Quarterfinals of the Mountain West Championship.
Number 1 seed UNLV throttled No. 8 UNR, 84-47, Monday, March 6 from the Thomas & Mack Center to advance in the MWC. The Lady Rebels took all three meetings against the Wolf Pack this season including a matchup up north less than a week ago.
“I know we had a tough game against them last time,” senior guard Justice Ethridge said. “And I know they’re our rivals so it’s always going to be an emotional game. We knew that if we came out and played as hard as we could and forget about the last game then everything was going to be good.”
With the victory, UNLV improves to 29-2 on the year while setting a new single-season record in wins. In addition, the Lady Rebels are ranked 21st in the nation while riding a win streak of 20 straight games.
UNLV now moves on to play the winner of the 4-5 matchup between San Diego State and New Mexico. That game will be played Tuesday at 5 p.m. from the T&M Center.
“We’re proud to get this one done,” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “We’re going to be ready for tomorrow.”
It was an early shooting barrage that set the pace for the 37-point win for the top seeded Lady Rebels. The team opened the game making all of its first five three-point attempts on the way to a 22-9 close to the opening frame.
Things were out of hand by halftime as UNLV closed the first half on a +30 run. By the final buzzer, UNR would go down by as many as 38 points.
Senior guard Essence Booker scored 13 of her 16 points in the first half including a perfect 3-of-3 mark from deep. Over her last four games, Booker has been more of a facilitator, racking up 27 assists versus just 21 points.
“Honestly, I just wanted to come and exhaust myself as a leader,” Booker said. “My points will come naturally. I feel like I took the right shots and shot with confidence and they went in.”
Booker finished with a season-high four threes on 6-of-11 from the field en route to her 16 points. Last season, she was named the Tournament MVP for the champion Lady Rebels.
“She’s a tournament player,” La Rocque said. “I don’t really care what she has done all year. I know that she’s going to show up in the biggest moments of the year for us and lead our team.”
Ethridge shared the team-high with Booker, pouring in 16 points on 6-of-10 from the field including three made threes. This year’s UNLV team is 12-0 when she scores in double-figures.
Sophomore forward Alyssa Brown was the final player in double-figures from the winning team, tallying 10 points to go along with a team-high six rebounds and game-high three blocks.
As a team, the Lady Rebels shot 55% from the floor including a 50% mark from beyond the arc. Every player in uniform played for La Rocque’s group with all scoring at least two points.
With 7:41 left in regulation, La Rocque was able to empty her bench and rest her starters for the remainder of the win.
“You can say it’s exactly what the doctor ordered a little bit,” La Rocque said. “We wanted to get everyone in. I thought it was great to get some rest for some high-minute players. And everybody scored which is pretty cool – I think that’s happened maybe one other time this year.”
Junior center Desi-Rae Young scored eight points on 4-of-7 from the field in just 21 minutes of action.
“She may not have had her typical stat line but it was her commanding a double down there [which is] why we got open for threes,” La Rocque said. “If we take her out of the mix, that doesn’t happen. I think because everyone knows how she can just go off, you still have to double [...] This might be one of the first times Desi didn’t score in double-figures all year.”
Young hadn’t been held to single-digit scoring since Dec. 18 on the road against Oklahoma State, the last time this program lost.
Having just seen UNR less than a week ago, UNLV did correct several points of emphasis including offensive rebounds and turnovers.
After giving up three offensive rebounds in the first 4:30 minutes of the game, the Lady Rebels limited the Wolf Pack to just four the remainder of the half.
“We knew that they were a really good rebounding team,” Ethridge said. “We all had to crash the boards. Just keying in and making sure we boxed out helped us a lot.”
In the last meeting between the two rivals, UNR didn’t commit its first turnover until early into the second quarter. This time around, the Wolf Pack were rushed into four first quarter turnovers on the way to 17 for the game.
UNLV turned those 17 turnovers into 20 points going the other way.
“We just wanted to be more aggressive,” La Rocque said. “I think that’s offensively and defensively. Just trying to be disruptive defensively and I thought we did a great job of doing that.”