Lady Rebs celebrate banner, romp Aggies on same night
A new test in the final days of the regular season slate didn’t provide many problems for a streak UNLV Lady Rebel team, picking up its largest win in 20 years.
UNLV obliterated Utah State, 86-32, Thursday, Feb. 23 from the Cox Pavilion. The 32 points given up is the lowest point total allowed since January 1987. In addition, the 54-point margin of victory is the largest for the program since 2001.
“The biggest key was to move on [from that San Jose State game],” senior guard Essence Booker said. “We wanted to come out here tonight, especially, with this big crowd and play how we play.”
The Lady Rebels have now won their last 12 meetings against the Aggies, not losing since the 2015-16 season. In addition, the team pushed its perfect start at home to 16-0. Moreover, UNLV improved its season-long win streak to 17 games for the No. 24 team in the country. The No. 24 ranking is one spot lower than the team’s debut in the polls last week.
“Yeah, I think [the chip on the shoulder grew],” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “We’re getting down to the final weeks and this is when you really get laser-focused on what you need to do for yourself and not for anyone else.”
Now, the Lady Rebels are 26-2 overall this season with a 16-0 mark in the Mountain West. The team has already wrapped up the conference’s regular season title for the second straight year.
UNLV will have one more chance to defend homecourt as it prepares to welcome in San Diego State Saturday, Feb. 25. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. from the Cox Pavilion. Last year, the Lady Rebs had an 11-game home win streak snapped on the team’s Senior Night.
“It’s not going to be about Senior Night,” Booker said. “It’s going to be about playing San Diego [State]. I’m going to let my teammates know that as well. It’s not going to be about how many points our seniors score or the day that it is – it’s going to be our last home game and we want to go and carry that into playing [Nevada – Reno] next.”
En route to this most recent dominating win, UNLV held Utah State without a point for the first six-plus minutes of the game. The Aggies’ first basket came at the 3:14-mark of the first quarter. The Lady Rebels built a lead as large as 21 points in the opening 10 minutes.
That lead would later grow to 39 points in the second quarter on the way to a 48-9 first half for the home team. During the first 20 minutes of play, UNLV shot 18-for-34 from the field while holding Utah State to 3-for-28 on the other end.
“This is the time of year where everyone knows your plays and personnel really well,” La Rocque said. “It’s about execution offensively and defensively. I do think our defense is doing its job. Sometimes we don’t get as much defensive credit as our team deserves but they’re doing a heck of a job.”
The lead would only grow larger in the second half, being extended to 48 points in the third quarter before the eventual 56-point difference in the final 10-minute installment.
Frustrations began to boil over late in regulation when freshman guard Jasmyn Lott was whacked across the face on a layup attempt with the Lady Rebs up big.
While Utah State struggled from the field early, it was the exact opposite for sophomore guard Alyssa Durazo-Frescas, who rattled off three made three-pointers in the first quarter for nine points.
By the halftime buzzer, Durazo-Frescas was up to 15 points with five made deep balls. She finished with 17 points on 50% shooting from the field. Her five three-point effort accounted for half the team’s made baskets from beyond the arc.
“When Alyssa is knocking down shots, I feel like we’re on a whole different level,” Booker said. “When she’s knocking down shots, we can’t be guarded because the defense has to go out and guard. And it spreads the floor for me to drive and create for other people. When she’s on, she’s on man.”
Junior center Desi-Rae Young led the team in scoring with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. It’s only the third time in the last eight games that she has not recorded a double-double.
Young had it going in a multitude of ways including splashing a three from the top of the key in the third quarter to put the team up 46 points. In the first quarter, she took a defensive rebound coast-to-coast before dumping it off at the last minute to sophomore forward Kenadee Winfrey for the buzzer-beating layup.
Speaking of assists, Booker put forth another double-double, one of which consisted of rebounds and assists.
“She came into the game with an eye to pass more than shoot or score,” La Rocque said. “For this game, I’m okay with it. I told her each game is going to require something different so the next game, it may not be the case [...] Her stat line today was pretty cool though.”
Booker tallied 10 rebounds and 10 assists while going scoreless for the first time in more than three years when playing more than five minutes. She performed a highlight reel play when she found Young under the basket via a behind-the-back pass for two points.
Over the last two games, Booker has compiled 22 assists.
UNLV posted 26 assists on 32 made field goals while holding Utah State to eight dimes on 11 makes the other way. In addition, the home team shot 50% from the field as a whole while limiting its conference foe to just 18%.
Furthermore, the Lady Rebels outrebounded the Aggies, 55-30.