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Lady Rebels rally to complete perfect run through Mountain West

Updated February 28, 2023 - 10:14 pm

Lindy La Rocque and the UNLV women’s basketball team had a lot of goals entering this season. However, a perfect conference record wasn’t necessarily one of them.

“We just always wanted to win the next game,” La Rocque said. “When you really commit to that and execute it well, then here we are.”

The No. 22-ranked Lady Rebels survived a scare Tuesday, storming back from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat UNR 71-66 at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno. UNLV’s victory secures an 18-0 record in Mountain West play.

It’s the first time the Lady Rebels have gone undefeated in a conference season since 1985, when they were 8-0 in the Big West. That’s almost five years before La Rocque was born.

The Lady Rebels are just the second team in Mountain West history to remain perfect through the conference season since it moved to an 18-game schedule, joining Colorado State in 2015-16. UNLV is the fourth team to achieve an undefeated Mountain West season in the league’s history.

The Lady Rebels (28-2) have won 19 straight overall.

“Not losing a conference game is really special,” La Rocque said. “It takes a special group and special people, and a lot of people committing to do the right thing all the time. It’s our team, it’s our staff, it’s our support staff, it’s everyone.”

Junior Desi-Rae Young led the way with a game-best 20 points against UNR (9-20, 6-12), and sophomore Alyssa Durazo-Frescas added 18. Fellow sophomores Kiara Jackson and Alyssa Brown scored 11 and 10, respectively.

Entering the fourth quarter, UNLV trailed by seven. The Lady Rebels had been far from their best all night. They turned the ball over, and struggled to find Young in the low post as Wolf Pack forwards Lexie Givens and Megan Ormiston made space a premium.

While UNLV sputtered, UNR played three quarters of its best basketball. Junior guard Victoria Davis was lights out from 3-point range, going 4 of 5 in the first half. The Wolf Pack also crushed the Lady Rebels in rebounding, 33-24, and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds during the first three quarters.

But just 141 seconds into the fourth quarter, UNLV was back ahead. Brown fought for an offensive rebound, and her layup with 7:39 remaining capped a 9-0 run for the Lady Rebels.

Young scored eight points and grabbed four of her eight rebounds in the fourth quarter. Her presence in the post helped UNLV outrebound UNR 11-4 during the final period.

Durazo-Frescas also played an important role down the stretch. Her 3 from the left corner 10 seconds into the fourth quarter kicked off the Lady Rebels’ run, and her steal and transition layup two minutes later tied the game.

“I trust this group,” La Rocque said. “We weren’t playing up to how we normally do, but I could see in their eyes that they still knew they were going to find a way to win, and they did.”

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

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