As the UNLV women’s basketball has won back-to-back Mountain West titles and become one of the top mid-major programs in the country, coach Lindy La Rocque said her team’s nonconference schedule has gotten tougher each year.
Testing her team in November and December to prepare for conference play is the “right way” to get the Lady Rebels ready for a potential third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, she said.
“That’s what I’m continuing to push for the expectation and standard for our team,” La Rocque said. “Our biggest time for growth is in November and December.”
UNLV (7-0) faces Pac-12 opponent Arizona (6-1) at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center. The teams last played in the 2022 NCAA Tournament when Arizona held on for a 72-67 win in Tucson.
“(Arizona has) been in the NCAA Tournament and had great success, so it’s a great measuring stick,” La Rocque said. “We’re a tournament team, too. We have to put ourselves in those situations more and more, especially earlier in the year, to want to continue to get better and have success late in the season.”
The game was originally scheduled for 2 p.m. but was moved to 5 p.m. to avoid conflict with UNLV football hosting the Mountain West championship game. Saturday’s game is the beginning of UNLV’s most difficult stretch of its season, which includes a road game at Big 12 opponent Oklahoma on Dec. 9.
“We’ve got a tough December,” La Rocque said.
UNLV finished up a perfect November with senior center Desi-Rae Young averaging a double-double with 16.9 points and 10 rebounds per game. La Rocque said Young has continued to grow as a passer and 3-point shooter.
“Every year, (Young) finds different ways to improve her game and improve as a basketball player,” La Rocque. “This year already, she’s been tested to do different things. She’s had really big games for us, and then we’ve relied on her to do other things like being a screener and rebounder because people are so focused on her.”
Junior Kiara Jackson is third on the team in scoring (12.4 points) and leads the team with 5.3 assists per game as she’s taken over the reins as UNLV’s point guard. La Rocque called Jackson, the conference’s Sixth Player of the Year last season, the “captain of (UNLV’s) ship.”
“I’m really excited about (Jackson) and how well she’s playing,” La Rocque said. “To be honest, she can continue to grow and get even better.”
One new addition to UNLV’s starting lineup is junior guard Ashley Scoggin, who missed all of last season with an injury.
“(Scoggin) has a lot of basketball experience in her lifetime, and it’s been great to see her create that success on the court,” La Rocque said. “She’s an incredible shooter, extremely vocal and she has a great basketball IQ. It’s been a great addition to have her out on the court.”
Saturday is the Lady Rebels’ only game at the Thomas & Mack Center, and La Rocque said she is hopeful to get a crowd coming from Allegiant Stadium and build momentum for their road games ahead.
“We want to have a few thousand fans here supporting us coming from the football game,” La Rocque said. “I’m excited to see how the city shows out for us.”
Who: UNLV vs. Arizona
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Thomas & Mack Center