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‘Sad more than anything’: Lady Rebels fall in NCAA 1st round — PHOTOS

Updated March 23, 2024 - 7:48 pm

LOS ANGELES — UNLV was starting to get back into its first-round NCAA Tournament game against Creighton on Saturday.

The Lady Rebels had fallen behind by double digits in the second quarter, but they pieced together a 7-0 run to trail by four points with a minute until halftime.

Then UNLV’s bid to win its first NCAA Tournament game since 1991 started to slip away.

Creighton senior guard Morgan Maly hit a pair of 3-pointers in transition, and reserve guard Kiani Lockett had a steal at halfcourt and scored a layup in the final 80 seconds to take a 12-point halftime lead.

The No. 10-seeded Lady Rebels fell into a hole they couldn’t dig out of, losing to No. 7 Creighton 87-73 at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. UNLV (30-3) came into the game ranked No. 20 by The Associated Press, and the Bluejays (26-5) were No. 24.

“That was kind of where we broke down defensively,” UNLV coach Lindy La Rocque said of the Creighton run to end the first half. “Credit them for making the plays and making the shot, but we felt like we got it right where we want it. But to finish off the half like that, it didn’t feel good going into halftime.”

Senior center Desi-Rae Young scored 30 points on a 15-of-19 shooting effort and grabbed nine rebounds for UNLV in her final game for the program.

Junior point guard Kiara Jackson added 16 points, six assists and five rebounds. No other Lady Rebels scored more than seven points.

“For us, this one loss doesn’t sour an incredible season,” La Rocque said. “To win 30 games in back-to-back years, that’s really special. Really, really special, and it’s really hard to do. I’m incredibly proud of their daily commitment.”

The loss snaps UNLV’s 15-game winning streak.

“We’re disappointed with the outcome, and we didn’t want this,” La Rocque said. “There’s a lot of emotions in there. We’re sad more than anything.”

UNLV had no answers for Creighton’s hot 3-point shooting. The Bluejays made 15 of 34 3-pointers (44.1 percent). UNLV held a 46-24 advantage on points in the paint and shot 50.8 percent from the floor, but made just 5 of 20 3-point attempts.

“Creighton is a great shooting team,” Jackson said. “Their transition offense isn’t traditional, they all run five (players) out, so it was kind of difficult.”

While UNLV held Creighton scoreless for nearly three minutes before halftime, the Lady Rebels made just one field goal during the run and made three of six foul shots.

“We were just trying to get some momentum going our way, but they go on an 8-0 run … then we’re kind of fighting uphill,” La Rocque said. “We challenged our team with some small goals to try and get back within striking distance, and we just couldn’t couldn’t get the stops.”

Behind 3-point shooting from Maly, Lauren Jensen, Emma Ronsiek and Jayme Moran, Creighton maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half.

“We tried to get stops,” Young said. “That’s what we had to do in order to come back and try and break that double-digit lead they had on us. We tried our hardest, and we continued to try our hardest.”

UNLV found success early going inside to Young. The two-time reigning conference player of the year made her first three shots, as the Lady Rebels scored all of their points inside to take a 10-7 lead midway through the first quarter.

Creighton eventually found its shot from behind the arc as Jensen and Horan each made a pair of 3-pointers to take a 23-16 lead after the first quarter.

The Bluejays held UNLV scoreless for the final 2:42 of the quarter, and the Lady Rebels went cold, missing their last five shots entering the second.

Young ended UNLV’s drought on a putback layup to start the second, but Creighton wasn’t missing from beyond the arc. Maly hit two 3-pointers to put the Bluejays ahead 33-23 with over six minutes left in the first half.

UNLV chipped away at the deficit by driving into the paint. A 7-0 run in a 3:40 stretch cut Creighton’s lead to 36-32 with just over a minute left before halftime, but the Bluejays scored the last eight points of the quarter to take a 44-32 halftime lead.

Jensen led Creighton with 25 points with five 3-pointers on an 8-of-12 shooting effort. Ronsiek added 23 points, and Maly scored 16, with both players shooting 50 percent from the field.

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

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