Erica Helms played sparingly as a UNLV freshman last season, averaging about 10 minutes per game in a reserve role.
But the resident of Antioch, Calif., stayed in Las Vegas over the summer to work on her game, and it has paid immediate dividends.
Helms led the Lady Rebels with 13 points in a 71-58 victory over Southern Utah on Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“A lot of girls stayed this summer, and we woke up at 6:30 every morning, lifted weights and ran on the football field,” said Helms, a 5-foot-7-inch guard who scored a team-high 19 points in UNLV’s season-opening 92-71 rout of Sacramento State.
Making her second career start Tuesday, Helms hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Lady Rebels (2-0) a 7-0 lead and also came up with a steal and layup in UNLV’s game-opening 19-2 run.
“She put a lot of time in over the summer and did a very good job leading the team and getting them together for open gym,” Lady Rebels coach Kathy Olivier said. “It paid off for her.”
Olivier had played 11 of her 13 players by the 10-minute mark in the game, which wasn’t nearly as close as the final score suggests.
UNLV led 40-14 at halftime and 49-18 early in the second half before faltering down the stretch.
The Thunderbirds (0-2) outscored the Lady Rebels 40-22 the rest of the way and closed the game on a 14-4 run.
“I liked the way we started, hitting shots and playing aggressive defense, but we have to learn not to take breaks on defense,” Olivier said. “We took more breaks in the second half defensively.
“It’s early in the season, and there are a lot of things we still need to improve on, but the good thing is we need improvement and we’re 2-0.”
After tying a school record by making 12 3-pointers on 27 attempts Friday, UNLV hit 8 of 28 3-pointers Tuesday.
“If we have clean looks, we’ll take them,” Olivier said. “If not, we’ll be patient and look to attack.”
All 13 players saw action for the Lady Rebels, and 10 scored four points or more. Dominique Harris had 12 points and six rebounds, and center Shamela Hampton added nine points and seven rebounds.UNLV — 71
SOUTHERN UTAH — 58
KEY: The Lady Rebels pushed their lead to 31 points in the second half before holding off a late Thunderbirds charge.
NEXT: UNR vs. UNLV, 7 p.m. Friday, Cox Pavilion