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Smith answers call, powers Lady Rebels past Air Force

UNLV forward Jamie Smith asked before Saturday’s game against Air Force that one of the basketball managers hold her cell phone in case anyone called.

She was desperate for news from Hawaii, where her family evacuated their Oahu home for higher ground after a tsunami warning that morning.

Then at halftime, Smith was told the warning was called off. "I knew that my family was safe," she said after scoring 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in UNLV’s 69-55 victory at Cox Pavilion.

Smith wasn’t the only standout for the Lady Rebels (13-16, 6-9 Mountain West Conference). Guard Kelli Thompson had 20 points and eight rebounds to help UNLV to its largest margin of victory since a season-opening 61-43 win at Southern Utah.

The win over Air Force (3-24, 0-14) lifted the Lady Rebels half a game in front of Colorado State into seventh place in the MWC. UNLV concludes the regular season Saturday at Wyoming.

Beating Air Force was crucial for UNLV, which had lost three in a row. The Lady Rebels not only won but played well in shooting 46.3 percent and tying their season high of 20 assists.

"You always want to go into the (conference) tournament playing well," Thompson said. "We just needed everyone relaxed. There was a lot of emotion going on."

UNLV took charge early, opening a 19-4 lead and answering every run.

"That’s the concern I’ve had all year, where at times we disappear," UNLV coach Kathy Olivier said. "It’s not that we go bad, we disappear. I didn’t think we did that at all."

Olivier knew this would be a different day from the beginning because of Smith’s concern for her family.

"She was upset before the game," Olivier said. "I talked to her mom (Brenda) this morning, and they were evacuating, and Jamie was shaking."

Olivier said Smith’s mother passed on a message: "Tell Jamie to do what she needs to do, which is win the game."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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