Lady Rebels enter postseason on high


Moments after wrapping up their best regular season in years Wednesday night, all the resurgent Lady Rebels wanted to do was look ahead.

"The accomplishments we made this season just blew my mind, but it means nothing right now," UNLV senior Jamie Smith said. "We're going into the postseason, and that's where we really need to take care of business."

The Lady Rebels led Colorado State most of the way in a 53-48 win at Cox Pavilion that clinched the No. 2 seed in next week's Mountain West Conference tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV (22-8, 10-4 MWC), riding a five-game winning streak, will face seventh-seeded New Mexico (9-19) at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the tournament quarterfinals.

Kelli Thompson scored 21 points -- her third straight game of 20 or more -- to lead the Lady Rebels in their regular-season finale.

"I've just been in another zone. I'm ready for the conference tournament," she said. "I wanted to go out with a bang, and I wanted to go into the tournament with a win. I just wanted to step it up."

Smith pulled down 11 rebounds -- pushing her career total to 1,131 -- to become UNLV's all-time leading rebounder.

With her family in attendance on Senior Night, she grabbed her fifth rebound of the game with 9:06 left in the first half to break Linda Frohlich's mark of 1,124. An announcement was made to recognize her achievement.

"It was cool to hear the fan support at the moment they called it out," Smith said. "It almost brought me to tears a little bit. It was cool."

Seniors Lenita Sanford, Sandrine Nzeukou and Markiell Styles also played their final regular-season game for the Lady Rebels, who took a 6-4 lead early in the first half and never looked back.

UNLV went on a 9-0 run, capped by a corner 3 from Smith, to take a 20-10 advantage. Mia Bell and Thompson then made back-to-back 3s to give the Lady Rebels their largest lead at 29-16.

The Rams (13-16, 9-5) opened the second half on an 11-4 run to pull within 34-29, but Smith answered with a 3 and Thompson hit several clutch shots to keep Colorado State at bay.

UNLV held Rams leading scorer Kim Mestdagh to three points on 1-for-13 shooting but missed its final six free throws to let the Rams hang around.

Sam Martin hit a 3 in the final seconds to finish with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds for the Rams, who made only 17 of 58 shots (29.3 percent).

"It was a tremendous effort defensively," UNLV coach Kathy Olivier said.

UNLV notched its first winning season in six years, reached 20 wins for the first time in eight years and recorded its highest league finish in 19 years.

"I'm greedy. I want more," Olivier said. "I think this team is capable of being even better. We've just got to keep this momentum going."

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

 

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