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Third straight season ends with first round NCAA exit for Lady Rebels

For the third straight season, the UNLV Lady Rebels’ season came to an end via a first round elimination from the NCAA Tournament.


UNLV was beaten by Creighton, 87-73, in the 7-10 matchup from Pauley Pavilion Saturday, March 23. The Blue Jays will move on to play the winner of UCLA - Cal Baptist while the Lady Rebels will begin its offseason, ending a 15-game win streak in the process.


“Not that the other teams weren't special and didn't deserve to win,” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “It felt different this year. This group felt different. So it hurts. I really wanted it for them. They wanted it really bad.


“The problem is we don't get a redo.”


La Rocque and the Lady Rebels are 0-3 over the last three seasons with the program still looking for its first tournament win since 1991. This most recent loss closes the year with a 2-2 record against Power 5 schools with both losses coming to the Big East.


Despite the loss, UNLV put forth a season that saw the team win 30-plus games for a second consecutive year. This season’s team closes its campaign with a 30-3 overall mark.


“They played better than us today, so we've got to give respect to that and give them their due,” La Rocque said. “In terms of for us, this one loss doesn't sour an incredible season. To win 30 games in back to back years, it's really special.”


Creighton’s success from downtown early and often proved to be too much for UNLV’s size despite scoring 22 more points in the paint than the victors. The Blue Jays counteracted the Lady Rebels’ post presence with 45 points from three-point range.


After falling behind by 11 points early, UNLV went on a 7-0 run to trim it to just four. In the next 56 seconds that followed, Creighton answered with an 8-0 run to regain the double-digit lead and even push it to 12.


“We kind of felt like we got it right where we want, at three, four points, a couple possessions,” La Rocque said. “Then to kind of finish off the half, obviously it didn't feel that good going into halftime, so obviously then we were kind of fighting uphill.”


By the final buzzer, the Blue Jays had converted 15 of their 34 three-point attempts in the game while it took more than 12 minutes for the Lady Rebels to drain their first longball.


“Their five-out motion, obviously it's different for us,” La Rocque said. “I don't totally think it was the half-court defense that troubled us, it was our transition.”


Creighton forward Emma Ronsiek scored all of her 23 points in the second half and nearly answered every UNLV run single handedly.


Senior center Desi-Rae Young posted 30 points and nine rebounds in her final game as a Lady Rebel. With just over two minutes left and the team down 18, Young was pulled from the game and received a standing ovation from the bench along with the large group of UNLV fans that made the trip.


“It was emotional,” La Rocque said. “I love coaching that kid. We came in as freshmen together. I'd like to think that we've kind of grown up alongside each other, too. It's just gone so fast.”


Young leaves the program as part of the three-time defending conference championship teams while hauling in two Mountain West Player of the Year awards and a Freshman of the Year honor.


Despite all being losses, playing for it all in the NCAA Tournament is the biggest takeaway for her in her Hall-of-Fame worthy career.


“Making it to the NCAA three times in a row,” she said. “In all the games I came to when I was young, I can't remember a game where they went to the NCAA Tournament. I'm just happy that I was able to be at UNLV and make history.”


Junior guard Kiara Jackson was the only other player in double-figures with 16 points on 50% shooting.


“Obviously we're upset,” she said. “But we can't forget what we did this year. We had a great season so we've got to remember that, and we'll be ready next year.”

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