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Lady Rebels clinch Mountain West regular-season title

Updated February 26, 2022 - 4:24 pm

Ever since taking the job, UNLV women’s basketball coach Lindy La Rocque has had high expectations. On Saturday her team met them, winning the Mountain West regular-season championship.

“There is that validation,” she said. “We’re doing things the right way with the right people. And it’s working.”

UNLV won the title outright by beating Colorado State 80-69 at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“It’s a big accomplishment,” sophomore forward Desi-Rae Young said. “I love representing my city and where I’m from.”

It’s the Lady Rebels’ first Mountain West regular-season title and their first outright regular-season championship since the 1989-90 season, when they won the Big West. La Rocque, a Las Vegas native, was only a few months old during that season.

“I was born in 1989, probably right during the season because I’m a December baby,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of full-circle moments in my journey and being at UNLV is one of them. Being able to win games here and create the program I always thought it could be is awesome.”

Coming off a 77-73 loss to Wyoming which prevented the Lady Rebels from clinching the title Thursday, UNLV (23-5, 15-2 Mountain West) started slowly against Colorado State (18-8, 9-7). Poor 3-point shooting stagnated the offense. They were 2-for-10 from long range in the first quarter.

Pair the Lady Rebels’ shooting struggles with red-hot Colorado State junior Kendyll Kinzer, who had 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting from 3-point range, and UNLV trailed 41-36 at halftime.

The Rams’ lead didn’t last long. The Lady Rebels outscored them 25-10 in the third quarter, sparked by freshman Kiara Jackson. She came off the bench and scored a team-high 20 points.

Jackson’s shooting spaced the floor for Young, who added a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Four UNLV players reached double figures in scoring, making a close game at halftime uneventful at the finish. Essence Booker had 17 points and Justice Ethridge added 13.

La Rocque said winning the regular-season championship was a weight off her shoulders. She said it’s incredibly special to make Las Vegas, UNLV and the people who raised her in the city’s basketball scene proud.

After they finish the regular season against UNR on Wednesday, UNLV’s next challenge is the Mountain West tournament, where it will be the top seed with home-court advantage.

“We were excited, but we know we’ve got another game left before the conference tournament,” Booker said. “We’re not trying to celebrate too much.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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