A wild ride needed overtime to determine a winner but once the smoke settled, the reigning Mountain West champions remained undefeated in conference play.
UNLV outlasted Colorado State, 91-88, in overtime Saturday, Dec. 31 from the Cox Pavilion. This matchup pitted the top two teams in the Mountain West against each other.
“That’s what it’s about,” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “With [seniors Desi-Rae Young and Essence Booker] fouling out – we don’t want to be in that situation but again, that’s what it was and people stepped up and kept fighting.”
By closing out the win, the Lady Rebels picked up a third straight win and closed the three-game homestand perfect. Overall, the team improved to 12-2 on the year and 2-0 in conference play.
As the team prepares to head to the road, UNLV will now turn its attention to Fresno State and a tilt with the Bulldogs.
That matchup will be played Thursday, Jan. 5 from the Save Mart Center with tip-off scheduled for 6 p.m.
Senior guard Justice Ethridge bookmarked this game at the beginning and end, finding different ways to impact the game.
Ethridge came down with an offensive rebound with just over 11 seconds left in overtime with her team up two. Her rebound helped the team ice the game with a pair of free throws.
To open the game, Ethridge was responsible for the team’s first nine points of the game. She assisted for the first three made field goals for the Lady Rebels and ended the stretch by nailing two free throws.
She posted six points, four assists and a rebound while playing the entire first quarter. She finished with eight points, seven rebounds and six assists in 39 minutes.
It was a wild finish with four fouls being called in the final 43 seconds of regulation. Three of those fouls were called against UNLV. Those free attempts granted to Colorado State helped the team keep putting points on the board despite not making a field goal in the last 2:07 of the fourth quarter.
However, the lone foul in the final 60 seconds from the Rams sent sophomore forward Alyssa Brown to the free throw line with 0.2 left on the clock and the Lady Rebs down two. Brown went on to drain both of those free throws and scored a layup in overtime that put the home team up five points as part of a 8-1 run by UNLV.
She ended the night with her second double-double of the season with 12 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
“That’s the biggest statement: How happy we are to have Alyssa Brown back,” La Rocque said. “She was critical throughout the whole game, obviously late in the game [with] two of the biggest free throws probably of her young life.”
Coming into the game, the biggest storyline was the top two teams in the conference facing off led by their top players who just so happen to be first and second in the Mountain West in scoring in McKenna Hofschild and Desi-Rae Young.
The two came together with the game on the line inside of 10 seconds left when Young fouled out as Hofschild cut to the basket for a layup. On the backend of her two made free throws, Hofschild reached 33 points on the night. She finished with 37 points on 10-of-15 from the floor with 16 made free throws.
Young ended her night with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting with seven rebounds.
Colorado State teammate Destiny Thurman followed Hofschild’s lead, scoring 25 points and five made threes.
As she did all last season on her way to the Mountain West Tournament MVP trophy, senior guard Essence Booker played the role of closer hitting several key shots along the way.
Late in regulation, Booker hit from deep to give the Lady Rebels a three-point lead and added a jumper moments later to put the team ahead by the same margin.
She continued her infectious play in the overtime session, hitting from mid-range for a four-point home team lead. Shortly after she’d foul out, similar to Young.
Booker finished with a team-high 16 points on 7-of-13 from the floor off-the-bench for just the second time in her UNLV career.
“Essence is finding her way,” La Rocque said. “There’s no one that supports her more than our team and each one of her teammates and our staff. We all know what she’s capable of so she’s getting back and getting back on track.”
Sophomore guard Kenadee Winfrey was the last Lady Rebel player in double-figures with 15 points and three made threes. She has now scored in double-figures in three of the last four games, all of which she started.
As a team, UNLV’s bench outscored Colorado State’s, 37-3.
“We felt in this game more than ever, we had to rely on every single person,” La Rocque said. “These games are going to present new opportunities and different situations. I’m just so glad on our team, we have just about every person for the job.”