New Mexico, The Pit hand UNLV first conference loss of season
A recent loss at New Mexico kept UNLV from its first 3-0 Mountain West start since the 2019-20 campaign.
The Lady Rebels lost, 71-68, to the Lobos Monday, Jan. 3 from University Arena also known as “The Pit.”
“New Mexico is so different from anyone we’ve seen so far, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a single thing” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “We responded really well to New Mexico’s style – some hard hedges, double teams in the post – and I think kept them as unsettled as a team like that can be. You know New Mexico is going to be fearless shooting the ball but there were some defensive miscues that let them creep back with a couple of runs late.” New Mexico entered the game with a 10-4 overall record, 7-0 at home while sporting five seniors in its starting lineup.
Coming into this game, UNLV was riding a four-game win streak and had won seven of its last eight games.
This was the second road loss for the team in six contests.
The two-game road trip ends at Air Force Thursday, Jan. 6.
“We’ve got to put our attention on AIr Force,” La Rocque said. “We have one day at home before travelling to Air Force. That’s a team that’s not going to let you do anything easy so it's another tough conference road game. They’ve got some feisty guards who, I think, lead the league in steals and they’ll want to drive and get to the lane.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Lady Rebels are now 10-4 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain West conference.
New Mexico outscored UNLV 27-18 in the fourth quarter spurred by a game-winning three-pointer by senior guard LaTora Duff with 5.4 seconds left in the game.
Of the 40 minutes, the Lady Rebels led for more than 31 and a half minutes.
Five of the seven ties from the game occurred in the fourth quarter.
A five-for-five stretch in the middle of the final frame by the Lobos gave the home team its first lead since 12-11 in the first quarter.
New Mexico would build its largest lead of the game that quarter at four points.
This game featured the two top scoring teams in the Mountain West with UNLV sitting in first at 74.9 points per game. It’s conference foe sits just behind at 74.6 points per game.
“Obviously, we had some areas where we fell apart in the fourth quarter,” La Rocque said. “They made some of their tough shots which we knew they were going to do and we weren’t surprised. But we let them back into too many possessions by not rebounding or by fouling on bad shots.
“We fouled on a three that let them have three points and a couple other shooting fouls on layups that would have been missed. It was just a string of those miscues back-to-back-to-back that let New Mexico capitalize.”
The first quarter opened with a furious run from the road team, racing out to a 7-0 start. The Lobos would respond with an 8-0 of their own to stop the bleeding.
There were three lead changes in the first quarter.
It was the second quarter where UNLV took control of the game, holding the home team to 4-of-16 in the frame finishing with a 29% mark for the first half.
The Lady Rebels built a lead as large as nine in that quarter, forcing three straight turnovers at one point just before halftime.
Sophomore center Desi-Rae Young was doubled in the paint from the start of the game.
“I thought she was great at handling the situation,” La Rocque said. “She’s been in that position before and will certainly be in the future but this was really the first time it was part of someone’s gameplan. We obviously need her to get to the line more but she really played intelligently and found ways to contribute in more ways than just scoring.”
As she often does, sophomore forward Nneka Obiazor found her spots with Young struggling, scoring eight points on 4-of-7 from the field in her first five minutes on the floor.
In the third quarter, she reached double-figures before any other Lady Rebel.
She would be the only UNLV player in double-figures until senior forward Khayla Rooks drained a three-pointer in the fourth to cross the 10-point threshold.
While Obiazor sat in double-figures, Young was handcuffed with six points on 2-of-10 from the field with 11 rebounds.
“Actually, as a team, we wanted to drive and do more fakes and get New Mexico off its feet and make them foul us,” La Rocque said. “But give [the Lobos] credit, they were very disciplined. Nneka was Nneka on offense and really battled. She definitely had a better presence under the basket in terms of efficiency with the ball.” Obiazor would finish with a team-high 17 points on 8-of-18 from the field, leading the team in attempts, to go along with eight rebounds in 21 minutes.
She was limited in the fourth quarter due to foul trouble.
Young finished with 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting and pulled in a career-high 16 rebounds along with a career-high five assists.