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UNLV leaves Thanksgiving Classic 1-1 after beating Grambling State

UNLV got even on the second day of the UNLV Thanksgiving Classic, beating the Grambling State Tigers, 89-49, Sunday, Nov. 29 from Cox Pavilion.


“Just a great learning experience and a great opportunity for our team,” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “That’s why we host this to be able to play two games in two days, it’s similar to conference tournaments. We want to play three games in three days come March.”


It was a nice close to a homestand as the Lady Rebels will now prepare to head to the road for the next three games.


“Honestly, we just have to take it a day at a time,” guard Essence Booker said. “We have to prepare and we have to focus on ourselves because that’s what it’s about. It’s not about the next team, it’s about our team and getting better everyday. So as long as we get one percent better everyday we’re going to be fine.”


The team currently has an overall record of 4-2 this year.


This game saw another lineup change come from La Rocque and her staff, now inserting freshman guard Alyssa Durazo-Frescas into the starting lineup for sophomore guard Jade Thomas.


“Well we just have to get production,” La Rocque said. “As a coach, I’ve got to play the best players that are playing well. It’s nothing personal, Jade is a captain for us. She’s a leader through and through, she does anything and everything we ask.”


Whether or not the lineup change had anything to do with it, UNLV opened the game taking four straight three-pointers, making two.


The Lady Rebels led 9-3 early, all baskets on made threes.


“Whatever feels good we’re going to take,” Booker said when referencing shot selection. “Lindy wants us to take good shots and open shots and we have the confidence to knock them down.”


The first four made three-pointers of the game were made by three different players, building a lead as large as 13 points in the opening quarter.


The lead grew to 14 in the second quarter, blistered to 26 in the third and exploded to 40 in the final frame.


Booker led the team in scoring with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including going 3-of-4 from deep.


She also handed out four assists.


Senior guard Justice Ethridge added 15 points on 5-of-7 from the field with three made threes.


“I’m not going to lie Coach Lindy and I have been kind of riding her to be more aggressive,” Booker said. “And I think it finally clicked in her head today so she did her job and that’s what we needed.”


She scored 10 of her points in the first quarter and even made the highlight reel on the defensive end when she went up high for a loud block.


“Every time a guard gets a block I’m super excited,” Booker said. “And for Justice, she never has any emotion if you notice her face. When she got the block we tried to get it out of her but we still didn’t. But there’s more to come, trust me.”


Durazo-Frescas chipped in with 13 points with three made treys in her first collegiate start.


She also tallied three rebounds and three assists.


They were three of five that scored in double-figures.


For a brief moment in the second quarter, a technical foul against the Tigers turned a six-point lead into a 10-point lead for the Lady Rebels.


“Yeah you could say that was a pretty critical part of the game,” La Rocque said. “It was getting physical there. As a coach, I have to have the back of my team because I don’t want them talking to the refs, that’s my job.”


The frustration came after more stingy defense from UNLV.


By the third quarter, the host team had forced its second shot clock violation. A third violation would follow before the end of the quarter.


In addition, the Lady Rebels won the rebounding battle, 54-30. Moreover, the team held a 25-11 advantage in the offensive rebounding category.


The dominance in that category made up for the 17 turnovers committed by the offense.


“Defense is what we’ve really needed to key in on,” La Rocque said. “Offensively, we’re pretty confident there frankly. We’ve got to set our minds to our defense so I’m proud.


“It’s hard to guard for 30 straight seconds and stay into it and not lose focus and collectively doing our jobs.”

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