Lady Rebels season ends with loss to rival Wolf Pack
It didn’t happen until the final regular season game of the year but UNLV suffered its first home loss of the conference season.
The Lady Rebels dropped a rivalry game to the Nevada – Reno Wolf Pack, 71-64, Wednesday, March 2 from the Cox Pavilion on Senior Night
Now, the program has lost two of its last three games.
“They’re not happy,” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “We’re not happy, every game we play we want to win. Obviously, we didn’t do that tonight and it stings, it hurts. I think we have to just take some ownership over that.”
UNR’s win means a series split between the in-state rivals participating in the Silver State Series.
UNLV still leads the all-time series 37-14.
As the season draws to a close, the team ends the year 23-6 and 15-3 in the Mountain West.
As a result, the team will enter the Mountain West Championship as the No. 1 seed after clinching the regular season conference title.
“I think right now we need to focus on picking our heads up,” junior guard Essence Booker said. “Obviously, we’ve suffered two losses in the last three games with Wyoming and Reno but we’re not really worried about the trophy we just got. We’ve got to focus and regroup and try to get together as teammates and reconnect.”
The team will play the winner of the matchup between No. 8 Fresno State and No. 9 Utah State.
UNLV will host the winner Monday, March 7 with tipoff scheduled for 12 p.m.
A 6-0 run from the visiting Wolf Pack to open the fourth quarter turned the game on its ear.
The Lady Rebels suffered several scoring droughts at critical points of the game.
For a 2:38-stretch late in the third quarter, the team went without a point. During that period, the team went from up three points to down three points.
UNLV suffered another such drought in the fourth quarter for nearly four minutes.
Much like the first drought, the lead grew for the opponent. UNR would build a lead as large as seven during that time.
Overall, it was a 14-3 run over a 7:22-stretch used by the Wolf Pack to take control of the game.
Frustrations mounted slowly and would eventually boil over when La Rocque was assessed a technical foul with 3:51 left in regulation with her team down nine.
Before the conclusion of the game, UNR would lead by as many as 12 points.
Booker didn’t score her first bucket until late in that fourth quarter after being held without a field goal for 33 of her 33 minutes on the floor.
Booker finished with 11 points on 2-of-10 from the field with three rebounds, three assists and three steals. In addition, she tallied six free throw points on eight attempts.
Sophomore center Desi-Rae Young was on a tear in the first half scoring 12 of her team-high 14 points.
Freshman guard Alyssa Durazo-Frescas also shared a team-high 14 points.
Young had to put up her numbers as she battled through physical defense from UNR that oftentimes led to her picking herself up off the hardwood.
“I mean, we have to keep feeding Desi,” Booker said. “She’s our go-to so regardless if they’re doubling her, tripling her inside; we’re going to keep trusting her to do what she does with however many people are guarding her.”
Young scored 41 seconds into the second half and would be held scoreless the rest of the way.
Her performance helped UNLV edge UNR in the paint points battle, winning 32-26.
Despite winning the paint battle, the Lady Rebels were out-rebounded, 40-30.
“For whatever reason, we weren’t as aggressive,” La Rocque said. “And maybe connected defensively as we have been lately. Frankly, to gang rebound there’s a lot of balls flying loose and late and we’ve kind of been the aggressor to make sure we get those and we didn’t tonight [...] and we still had a lead at halftime.”
In both of the team’s most recent losses, the team was out-rebounded by double-digits.
“In the beginning of the season we were kind of out-rebounding teams but I let [Nevada’s Kylie Jimenez] get some offensive rebounds on me in the beginning of the game,” Booker said. “And that kind of set the tempo for how we were going to rebound in the game so I feel like that was on me.
“Rebounding is about effort and energy and we just didn’t have it today.”
Moreover, UNR made the most of its rebounding opportunities outscoring UNLV, 21-10 on second chance points.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Senior forward Khayla Rooks was honored postgame on Senior Night, where a video tribute of her time with the Lady Rebels was shown.
“Khayla means a lot to us,” Booker said. “We were just going out, trying to give it our all, putting everything out there for her last home game. I think we just dedicated this game to her and tried to play it at our best.”