The end to a three-game road trip saw the UNLV Lady Rebels take its first loss away from Vegas in nearly a month.
UNLV lost, 68-61, to the Texas Tech Lady Raiders Sunday, Dec. 12 from the First United Bank Center in Canyon, Texas.
“In a lot of ways, it felt like our last game was a long time ago,” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “We were ready and excited to play the game today.”
The loss drops the Lady Rebels to 6-3 on the year and ends a three-game win streak.
It was the first neutral site game of the season for the program despite owning a 3-1 road mark.
Now UNLV will return home for back-to-back home games against Pacific and Hawaii, with the former being played Saturday, Dec. 18 from the Cox Pavilion.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“This is the best time of year,” La Rocque said. “Obviously, it’s the holiday season but [the players] should have no worries, they should have no stress. If anything, this is a glimpse into what it’s like to be a pro.”
Those two games will mark the end of the non-conference slate for the Lady Rebels ahead of Mountain West conference play.
“Today’s game was a really good test for us,” La Rocque said. “I think we responded in a lot of ways and grew and learned some new things about us that we’ll continue to kind of draw upon.”
UNLV found itself down early in this one, jumping into a full-court press after falling behind 8-2.
On two separate occasions early in the game, the Lady Rebels suffered scoreless stretches of two and a half minutes.
“We were playing a good team,” La Rocque said. “Big 12 opponent, really good coach. I told the team yesterday, ‘They do some things, their size, their length; it’s even hard for us to imitate that in practice.’ I think some of the lulls there in the first quarter and whatnot was a product of that.”
Texas Tech tallied seven assists on eight made field goals in the first quarter, building a lead as large as 11 points.
The lead would grow to 13 in the second quarter but a 9-0 UNLV run cut the deficit to four and eventually down to three.
The Lady Raiders would ultimately build that lead back to 12 before the end of the half, closing the first half making five of their last six.
The Lady Rebels went one for their last six to close the second quarter.
All season long, the turning point has been the third quarter for UNLV, outscoring its opponents by 26 points.
More importantly, Texas Tech entered the game being outscored by 17 in the third quarter.
The road team would win this third quarter, 17-12.
Forward Desi-Rae Young scored her first field goal of the game in the third quarter, sparking a 17-point second half outing after being held to just two points in the first half.
Playing with two fouls in the second quarter, Young still got in position to draw two offensive fouls.
“You know we have to really trust each other,” La Rocque said. “The players have to trust each other, I have to trust the players. Again, we hate to be in that situation and she doesn’t do it on purpose, some of the things are out of her control.
“I just have to trust that she’s going to make the right play. For us to be successful we know she has to be out there more often than not.”
On a fast break in the third quarter, Young missed a layup and was last getting down the floor to the other end.
Next time down, she missed another.
“We hit a stretch in the second half even in the fourth quarter where there was an early timeout,” La Rocque said. “We were playing our hearts out, all of the young women are. We had a little lull where I think we got tired.
“Desi started fading away from the basket. I had to give her a blow there and get her out just to help her catch her breath.”
Now playing with four fouls, Young completed a contact layup in the fourth quarter and was whistled for a technical foul as she picked herself up off the hardwood.
The tech meant Young fouled out of the game.
Before the technical foul call, UNLV had cut the deficit to two points, the smallest of the second half.
“First and foremost, whether I agree with the call or not, the call was made,” La Rocque said. “So our team has to continue to move forward. I mean, Desi was in tears over that because she doesn’t want to put our team in that situation.
“She’s a young player frankly and you try and learn from other people’s mistakes as much as you can but sometimes you’ve got to really feel the salt in that wound to make you not do it again. Desi wasn’t proud of that and she wasn’t happy she put the team in that situation.”
Young finished with 19 points on 7-of-17 from the field to go along with six rebounds and four steals.
Junior guard Essence Booker chipped in with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Senior forward Khayla Rooks scored 11 points with three made three-pointers and four rebounds.
Freshman guard Kenadee Winfrey had a homecoming of her own as she returned to Canyon, Texas where she helped win two district championships at Canyon High School.
La Rocque moved Winfrey to the starting lineup for this game, making her first career start.
“No doubt about it, we played this game because of Kendaee Winfrey,” La Rocque said. “Texas Tech sought us out for this game and we agreed to it, mainly to get Kenadee home and get her this dream-come-true of an opportunity to play in front of her family, her hometown and all of that.
“I wish you could’ve heard the crowd when they announced her name [in the starting lineup]. I looked up in the stands and she didn’t tell her parents and her whole family was crying.” La Rocque also added that the team, as a whole, visited Winfrey’s childhood home citing it’s bigger than basketball because “These are the things they will cherish.”
Winfrey picked up two quick fouls in the first 1:59 of the game and ended the night with three points, six rebounds and two assists.