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Sweep of Spartans earn Lady Rebels seconds straight conference regular season title

A freshly ranked UNLV Lady Rebels team put the finishing touches on a second straight conference regular season title adding another win to its season-long win streak.


UNLV dominated San Jose State to the tune of a 77-60 finish Thursday, Feb. 16 from the Thomas & Mack Center. This not only goes down as the second straight Mountain West regular season title for head coach Lindy La Rocque and company but it’s the program’s third in the last six seasons.


“Winning the regular season is really difficult,” La Rocque said. “It’s really difficult at any level, on any stage, regardless of gender. This is a big-time championship and I’m really proud of our team. “It was a total coincidence but what a great game to play in the Thomas & Mack. I don’t think we could fit all these people in the Cox Pavilion. To share a championship with all these people is how we get people to come back for more.”


With the win, the Lady Rebels improved its win streak to 16 straight victories with three more regular season games on the ledger. This is the team’s longest win streak since the 1992-93 season.


Overall, the team is now 25-2 on the year and 15-0 in the conference still sitting atop of Mountain West standings. In addition, the team continues its perfect home record, increasing it to 15-0.


The matchup against the Spartans marked the first of a three-game homestand. Next on the schedule, the team will host the Utah State Aggies in the first meeting between the two programs this season.


“It’s nice to have a bye weekend,” La Rocque said. “We’re going to rest for a couple of days and really get our legs fresh and ready. We’ve got two weeks to really grind, Utah State and San Diego State, we want to play well against both of those teams. We’ll get re-focused back on that next week.”


That game is slated for Thursday, Feb. 23 from the Cox Pavilion with tip-off set for 6:30 p.m.


It was a 15-0 UNLV run to close the first half that turned the game on its ear for good. As a result, the lead was extended to 19 points. Coming out of halftime, the run was pushed to 17-0 while the lead grew to 21 on the first made basket of the half.


On the defensive end, the Lady Rebels held the Spartans scoreless for the final 6:52 of the second quarter.


“We spend a lot of time on our connectedness on defense,” sophomore forward Alyssa Brown said. “To be able to going from zone to man to press – all of our different presses and that’s something we pride ourselves on and I think it makes us 10 times harder to beat.”


That drought at the end of the second quarter wasn’t the first of its kind as UNLV held San Jose State without a point for the last 4:18 of the first quarter. Before then, the game featured six ties in the first five-plus minutes of the game.


Things changed when the Lady Rebels hopped back into their full-court pressure defense about midway through the second quarter.


“San Jose State is a great team – obviously, their record doesn’t quite show it,” La Rocque said. “They make you play a little wild, a little sloppy so I wasn’t too pleased so we had to get back to our game and our tempo.”


Senior guard Essence Booker paced the offense, setting a new career-high in assists along the way. Prior to the start of the game, her career-high was seven assists.


“She didn’t have the shooting night that she typically has,” La Rocque said. “Which is okay [because] she found a way to affect the game and have a huge impact. Twelve assists – I think they said it’s the first time someone has had double-digit assists since [assistant coach Mia Bell] was playing so a long time.”


Booker accounted for highlight-reel play after highlight-reel play as she blessed Brown and center Desi-Rae Young with dump-off passes for scores in the first quarter. Later in the first half, she found Young on a no-look pass from inside the paint.


“She’s such a dynamic guard,” Brown said. “She can score, she can pass, she can drive, she’s unselfish, she’s always looking to get the post a touch and go inside-out. She’s a great player and was a phenomenal passer tonight.”


Brown picked up her fourth double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds without missing a shot, going 8-for-8 on the field.


“My comfort level has grown as [the coaches’] confidence in me has grown,” she said. “Lindy has high expectations for me and I’m just driving to meet those for them.”


Young added 16 points and 10 rebounds to record her 15th double-double of the season and the 32nd of her collegiate career.


Brown and Young’s effort helped UNLV win the points in the paint battle by 10.


Booker finished with a career-high 12 assists and four points on 2-of-13 from the field. Her passing effort helped the home team win the assist category, 24-11.


Sophomore guard Alyssa Durazo-Frescas tallied 14 points and four made threes. On the heels of one of those made threes in the fourth quarter, Durazo-Frescas was assessed a technical foul after taunting the defender closing out by pointing at her.


Senior guard Justice Ethridge added 10 points with two made threes and four assists.

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