The UNLV Lady Rebels fell short to the Arizona Wildcats, 72-67 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday night in Tucson, AZ.
“Extremely proud of our group,” head coach Lindy La Rocque said. “Obviously this one stings pretty bad, but we’re going to use that as fuel to the fire because this is where we belong.”
The Wildcats hosted their first home NCAA Tournament game since 1998, while this was the first tournament appearance for the Rebels since 2002.
UNLV entered the tournament as the No. 13 seed, while the Wildcats entered as the No. 4 seed and even with a hard fought battle the Rebels couldn’t hold on for the victory.
The Lady Rebels held their own in the first quarter, ignoring the screams from Arizona’s home crowd in the McKale Center.
UNLV attacked Arizona from the start, aggressively going to the basket while hitting 7-of-12 shots in the first quarter. The Lady Rebels also rattled the Wildcats defensively, holding them to 3-of-15 shooting to lead 14-9.
Arizona head coach Adia Barnes took the opportunity to change the line-up, replacing starters with her bench players.
The Wildcats quickly turned up their energy, surrounded by their home crowd to take the lead in the second quarter. Shaina Pellington led Arizona in the quarter, helping the team hit 9-of-13 shots to take a 31-29 halftime lead.
Arizona’s 3-point shooting kept it in the game, shooting 42.9% from deep in the first half. The Lady Rebels made 53.8% from the field, but couldn’t make a single 3-pointer during the first 20 minutes.
The momentum for the Wildcats carried over into the third quarter, but the Lady Rebels didn’t hold back.
UNLV hit 8-of-12 shots in the quarter and closed down with a 7-0 run to lead 53-48.
Arizona finally got back into the right mindset in the fourth quarter, opening with an 8-0 run to go up 56-53. The Wildcats shut down the Lady Rebels from there, earning a hard-fought trip into the second round.
Pellington scored 30 points and Cate Reese added 16 for the Wildcats to help Arizona outlast UNLV 72-67.
Arizona moves on to face North Carolina in Monday’s second round.
Desi-Rae Young finished with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds. Nneka Obiazor scored 13 and Alyssa Durazo-Frescas had 11 points, including a 3-for-5 night from 3-point range.
“Desi had that look in her eye, ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes,’” La Rocque said. “Rebounding, obviously scoring and just being physical. She was really good tonight.”
Even with the loss, La Rocque set a good foundation moving forward for the Lady Rebels in only her second season with UNLV.