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Lady Rebels outduel Wyoming in battle for 1st place — PHOTOS

Updated February 1, 2024 - 7:18 pm

Desi-Rae Young is used to being a dominant force on offense, which has helped the UNLV women’s basketball team outmatch most of its opponents.

But Wednesday night against Wyoming, Young managed just five points through the first three quarters in a tight battle with first place in the Mountain West on the line.

Out of a timeout with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, as Wyoming chipped away at UNLV’s lead, coach Lindy La Rocque wasn’t going to turn away from her senior center.

Young spun around a Wyoming defender and put up a one-handed layup to swing momentum back UNLV’s way. She scored 10 fourth-quarter points, and the Lady Rebels held on for a 58-51 victory at Cox Pavilion to maintain control of first place in the conference.

“Desi’s basket there was so huge. We know she’ll always deliver for us,” La Rocque said. “It was a rough shooting night for us, but we found a way. When we needed baskets, (Young) gave us a couple of big ones.”

Young scored a team-high 15 points for UNLV (18-2, 8-1 Mountain West), and freshman guard Amarachi Kimpson scored 12 in 22 minutes off the bench. It was UNLV’s first meeting with Wyoming (12-8, 7-2) since a 71-60 win in last season’s Mountain West championship game to secure the Lady Rebels’ second straight conference championship.

“Our team was up to the challenge,” La Rocque said. “We’re halfway through conference play, and you got to find ways to win and our team did that. I’m really proud of them for stepping up and doing that.”

Kimpson followed Young’s basket with a floater to put UNLV up 54-49 with 1:02 left. Kimpson helped seal the win with a steal with 35 seconds left.

“I’m continuing to beg (Kimpson) to be more aggressive, and when she is, it’s really awesome,” La Rocque said. “Her impact on the game … she’s totally a two-way player. To bring that off the bench, it makes me really confident in her.”

Kimpson helped UNLV create separation late in the third quarter. She converted a three-point play to give the Lady Rebels a 40-36 lead with 1:14 left in the third quarter.

The basket began an 11-0 run over the next 6:32 as UNLV’s lead surged to 48-36 midway through the fourth quarter.

“Everybody got excited, so it just gives the team a lot more energy throughout the game,” Kimpson said.

Young was held scoreless in the first quarter as Wyoming attacked inside early. The Cowgirls scored 10 points in the paint and shot 50 percent in the quarter to keep the game tied at 15.

The pace slowed down in the second quarter, as both teams combined to shoot 28.1 percent. UNLV held Wyoming scoreless for over four minutes but only stretched its lead to as many as five points. The Lady Rebels led only 27-26 at halftime.

“If you can get a little bit of a lead on (Wyoming), then limiting the possessions can work in our favor if we get can get some stops,” La Rocque said. “We got a got a little lead, and then that fourth quarter went by kind of quick.”

Kiara Jackson added eight points and nine rebounds, and Alyssa Durazo-Frescas also scored eight points for the Lady Rebels.

UNLV next plays at New Mexico at 1 p.m. Saturday. New Mexico defeated the Lady Rebels 69-66 on Jan. 20 at Cox Pavilion to snap UNLV’s streak of 23 straight regular-season wins against Mountain West opponents.

“I don’t think anyone in our locker room forgot what happened the first time we played them,” La Rocque said. “It was just a short couple of weeks ago. To start the second half of conference play, we’ve got a big test upon ourselves.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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