The UNLV Lady Rebels extend its winning streak to 16 by defeating the San Jose State Spartans at the Thomas & Mack Center 77-60 to clinch for a second year in a row the first seed for the Mountain West Championship Tournament on Feb. 16.
“Winning the Regular Season is really difficult, at any level in any state, no matter the gender, men or women,” Head Coach Lindy La Rocque said. “This is a big-time championship.”
The Lady Rebels improve to 25-2 overall and 15-0 in the Mountain West Conference.
This is the first time the Lady Rebels have won back-to-back regular season championships since entering the Mountain West Conference. The last time the Lady Rebels won the regular season championship two years in a row was in 1989 and 1990 in the Big West Conference.
Alyssa Brown and Desi-Rae Young contributed to the win, each reaching a double-double in the stat line against the Spartans.
Brown has embraced her role as a starting forward for the Lady Rebels. This season she averages nine points per game, along with just over seven rebounds a night.
“My comfort level has grown as the confidence in me has grown,” Brown said.
Brown finished the night with 17 points with 12 rebounds, and Young scored 16 points alongside 10 rebounds.
From beyond the arc, Alyssa Durazo-Frescas knocked down four 3-pointers and finished the game with 14 points.
The Spartans started the game playing up to the Lady Rebel competition. Jasmine Singleton splashed a 3-pointer to tie the game at 14-14 with four minutes to go in the first quarter.
“San Jose State is a great team. Their record doesn’t quite show it. They make you play wild and sloppy,” La Rocque said. “We had to get back to our game and our tempo.”
The Lady Rebels responded with a 3-pointer by Durazo-Frescas and layups by Kirara Jackson and Essence Booker to give the Lady Rebels an 18-14 lead at the end of the first.
Jackson finished the game with eight points, three rebounds, and one assist coming off the bench.
The Lady Rebels started to pull away with the game in the second quarter with team defense. UNLV held San Jose State to only 2-14 shooting from the field and the Spartans to a four-point quarter.
The Lady Rebels’ offense stayed consistent and continued to produce in the second quarter. Brown and Young controlled the paint, scoring 13 points in the second quarter. The Lady Rebels finished the first half with a 37-18 lead.
The third quarter was the highest-scoring quarter for both teams in the matchup. Nailea Nicholas and Sabrina Ma knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the Lady Rebel lead to 43-25 early in the third quarter.
The Lady Rebels rebutted with 3-pointers by Durazo-Frescas and Justice Ethridge, increasing the Lady Rebel lead to 21 in the following two possessions.
Booker and the Lady Rebel defense did not allow another point from San Jose State for the remainder of the quarter and entered the fourth quarter with a 60-43 lead.
Booker contributed to the Lady Rebels win with her defense and assist. Booker finished with three steals and 12 assists against the Spartans.
“[Booker] found a way to affect the game and have a huge impact.” La Rocque said. “She made a lot of her teammates look really good.”
The fourth quarter started with a quick run-in within the first minute with a layup by Jackson and a 3-pointer by Durazo-Frescas to make the score 65-45.
The Lady Rebels maintained its lead throughout the fourth quarter and carried on to defeat San Jose State 77-60 to win the Mountain West regular season title outright.
The Lady Rebels will have a bye weekend to celebrate its accomplishment before the next game on Thursday, Feb. 23, against the Utah State Aggies at the Cox Pavilion at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s nice to have a bye weekend,” La Rocque said. “We’re going to get our legs fresh and ready.
The Utah State Aggies are the last team in the Mountain West that the Lady Rebels have yet to play in the 2022-2023 campaign.
The Aggies are having a season on the flip side of the Lady Rebels. The Aggies are 1-13 in Mountain West Conference play this season.