A year ago, Boise State came into the Thomas and Mack Center and ended the Lady Rebels’ season.
Tuesday, the Lady Rebels looked determined to not let that happen again.
UNLV came up with a hard-fought 71-65 victory against third-seeded Boise State to propel itself to the semifinals of the Mountain West tournament.
“We wanted it more,” coach Kathy Olivier said. “Down the stretch, I just felt like we wanted it more.”
The win marks the Lady Rebels’ first trip to the conference tournament semifinals since 2009.
Just a day earlier, Olivier said her team had played like it didn’t want its season to end in its first-round matchup.
Tuesday, it was more of the same, though a victory was much harder to come by.
The Lady Rebels looked well on their way with a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter with 8:42 remaining.
That lead shrunk all the way down to one point with 2:18 left after Boise State sank two free.
But a three-pointer from Amie Callaway — her only points of the game — late in the fourth quarter helped extend the lead to five points and seal the victory.
“For us to be in the semis, a lot of it has to do with our seniors,” Olivier said. “Aley Rohde, she made her paint presence at the very beginning of the game. That was huge. And Amie hit that big three at the end of the game and I think it says a lot when your seniors are still fighting like our seniors are doing.”
Rohde helped set the tone in a game in which the Lady Rebels controlled the boards throughout, outrebounding Boise State 45-37.
That helped them jump out to a first-quarter lead.
And though top scorer Dakota Gonzalez and top rebounder Rohde spent most of the second on the bench with two fouls apiece, the Lady Rebels were able to build upon their lead thanks to strong second quarters from sophomores Brooke Johnson and Dylan Gonzalez.
Johnson finished the game with 17 points and 10 boards for the Lady Rebels, and UNLV flashed a look at its depth for the second straight night, this time with five different players scoring in double figures.
After pulling out 55-42 victory the night before, the Lady Rebels looked comfortable from the get-go on Tuesday.
“Come tournament time, the environment is crazy. The intensity picks up. Everybody just plays at a whole different level,” Dylan Gonzalez said. “So I feel like to kind of get to experience that before having to play Boise was really beneficial for us because we didn’t come out like deer in headlights.”
The upset propels the Lady Rebels a tilt with Fresno State on Wednesday night.
Olivier said she would give her team until midnight to enjoy its victory over Boise State before getting back on track to focus on Fresno State.
UNLV has lost both of its matchups with the Bulldogs this season, but both games were close.
The Lady Rebels lost by four points on the road in December and five points at home in early February.
Fresno State, the second seed in the conference tournament, advanced after beating Utah State 55-47 Tuesday evening.
“This is a team (that) we could have (beaten) both times and they were fortunate enough to come out with the wins,” Johnson said. “We’ve been wanting to play Fresno ever since those two games.”