Shooting prowess, toughness proves vital for Lady Rebels in road win over Lobos
Matching its longest win streak from last season, the UNLV Lady Rebels ran its most recent win streak to 12 games after taking down yet another conference foe.
UNLV beat New Mexico, 93-75, Thursday, Feb. 2 from The Pit avenging a three-point heartbreaking loss last season on the same floor. Prior to this outcome, both programs had split the last four meetings.
“I think [last year stuck with them],” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “We didn’t talk about the game here last year but our players know it. They were here and they lived it [so] coming into this building they remembered that and they wanted to right some wrongs.”
The win takes the all-time series to 40-27 for the Lady Rebels over the Lobos despite holding a 13-16 record in road meetings against their Mountain West rival.
Overall, UNLV is now 21-2 this year with a 11-0 standing in the conference, still sitting in first place. Dating back to last season, the team has won 14 straight Mountain West games.
“Our team really loves playing together,” La Rocque said. “No matter who we’re playing, they’re locked in, they’re focused and they’re really connected. Teams like that are hard to beat.”
The Lady Rebels will conclude their short two-game road trip Saturday, Feb. 4 when the program travels to Colorado Springs for a date with the Air Force Falcons.
UNLV is 8-2 on the road this season.
A fast finish over the last two minutes of the first quarter allowed the Lady Rebels to push their lead to double-digits over the Lobos.
The team used a 5-for-7 start from three-point range to take control of the game. In fact, UNLV shot 61% in the first half.
“I think it was huge,” La Rocque said. “We knew how well New Mexico has been playing and how well they have been playing at home. So we had a real emphasis to do the right thing early offensively and defensively.”
Senior guard Justice Ethridge racked up 11 of her game-high 20 points in the first quarter. By the end of the game, she shot 8-of-11 from the field including four made threes in addition to seven rebounds.
Fellow senior guard Essence Booker added seven of her 17 points in the opening frame. She finished the night 6-of-13 from the floor to go along with seven assists that was tied for a game-high.
The Lady Rebels’ lead swelled to 18 points early in the second quarter before going scoreless for more than three minutes. During the drought, the Lobos went on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to three.
“We know it’s a game of runs,” La Rocque said. “We went on our run in the first half and a good offensive team like [the Lobos], they were going to go on a run. We had a big lead there and it slipped a little bit but I’m really proud of our response to not crumble.”
In the third quarter, New Mexico would come within one point on two separate occasions. Following the final comeback effort, UNLV would close the frame on a 25-13 run. Before the final buzzer, the lead would grow to as large as 19 points.
On the defensive front, the Lady Rebels led by reigning Mountain West Player of the Year, Desi-Rae Young, held Lobos forward Shaiquel McGruder scoreless.
In 47 total minutes played against the UNLV defense this season, McGruder was held to zero points on 0-for-9 from the field. It’s the only two times she’s been held scoreless all season long.
“Desi’s really locked in to doing her job,” La Rocque said. “I think the biggest thing for McGruder is limiting her rebounds. She had two tonight – I would imagine that’s well below her average.”
That defensive effort allowed the Lady Rebels to win the rebounding battle, 35-27.
After scoring seven points in the first half, Young scored 10 of her eventual 19 points in the third quarter. She efficiently tallied her scoring total on 9-of-13 shooting while picking up her 13th double-double of the season including her third straight.
Sophomore forward Alyssa Brown reached double-figures, picking up 12 points on 5-of-8 from the field with two deep balls. She has now scored double-digits in three straight contests.
Sophomore guard Kenadee Winfrey added 12 points with two threes off-the-bench.
“When you score 93 points, there’s going to be more than one or two in double-figures,” La Rocque said. “Almost three 20-point scorers there. Today, we took what the defense gave us. We have great offensive players and people made shots but we took the right shots.”