Lady Rebels historic season ends with Round of 64 defeat of 71-59 to Michigan

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Lady Rebels huddle before warmups on their first game of the Mountain West Tournament. Photo by Kalin Sipes.

The UNLV Lady Rebels fell to the Michigan Wolverines with a score of 71-59 to end the Lady Rebels postseason run at the round of 64 on March 17. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of the season that we’ve had,” UNLV Head Coach Lindy La Rocque said. “This one stings and it’s going to be with us for a little bit, but we’ll carry it with us and be better.” 

The top performers for the Lady Rebels included Essence Booker, who scored a team-high 16 points, and Desi-Rae Young and Justice Ethridge both scored double-digit points with 11 each. “I’m proud of what we’ve done and this loss doesn’t dictate all things that we’ve done and made history in our program,” Booker said. “I’m going to hang my head high and I’m going to pick up my teammates and continue to do that even if it was my last game today.” The top scorers for the Wolverines included Emily Kiser and Maddie Nolan that combined for six 3-pointers and scored 18 points each. Leigha Brown contributed to the win by scoring 17 points and led the team with 7 assists. 

The Lady Rebels started the game with a big presence below the basket making three offensive rebounds in the second possession of the game. However, the Lady Rebels were unable to score any points. 

In the following possession, Kiser knocked down a 3-pointer for the first points of the game to give the Wolverines a 3-0 lead. 

Ethridge in the following two possessions made two layups to give UNLV a 4-3 lead. The Wolverines stated its presence below the rim making its first offensive rebound, and made the Lady Rebels pay with a shot by Cameron Williams to make the score 5-4. Booker drove to the basket and made a shot while drawing a foul and making a 3-point play to make the score 7-5. 

Brown continued to keep the hot hand with a layup followed by a mid-range jumper to make the score 13-7. 

Booker’s mid-range jumper ended the Lady Rebels scoring slump of over four minutes to make the score 13-9. 

The Wolverines stayed disciplined and drew a charge from Young making it her second foul of the first quarter. 

Young and Brown both went to the bench due to foul trouble in the last minute of the first quarter. 

Laila Phelia made a fast break at the buzzer to make the score 17-9 at the end of the first. Young finished the first quarter with zero points and the Lady Rebels missed all its shots from beyond the arc. 

Nolan started the quarter extending the Wolverine lead to 11 with a 3-pointer to make the score 20-9. 

“We lost [Nolan] a couple of times,” La Rocque said. “She’s a terrific shooter and she made us pay.”

The Wolverines’ defensive pressure was starting to overwhelm the Lady Rebels. The Lady Rebels turned over the ball six times in the second quarter. 

Young drew a foul after making an offensive rebound and made one of her two free throws making her first points of the game and the score 24-12. 

The Lady Rebels created a 9-2 scoring run which included 3-pointers by Kenadee Winfrey and Ethridge to cut the deficit to 26-20 in the backend of the first half. 

A mid-range bucket from Kiser was the last shot of the half giving the Wolverines a 28-20 lead at the half. 

UNLV started the second half scoring eight points in the first two minutes to cut the Wolverines’ lead to 31-28. Booker and Young combined for six points in the scoring run. “I feel in the second half that we just had to come out and we had to throw the first punch and we did,” Booker said. 

The Wolverines bounced back after and were able to take back a double digit lead with a Nolan 3-pointer with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 43-31. 

Kiser extended the Wolverines lead to 17 with a 3-pointer at the backend of the third quarter to give the Wolverines a 48-34 lead. 

The Lady Rebels cut the Wolverines’ lead at the end of the third quarter to 11 with 3-pointers by Booker and Alyssa Durazo-Frescas making the score 54-43. 

The Wolverines took control of the game in the fourth quarter starting off with a 3-pointer by Nolan to extend its lead to 57-43. 

The Lady Rebels and the Wolverines were trading baskets with each other, however, the Lady Rebels were not able to chip at the lead in the fourth quarter. 

The Wolverines held a double-digit lead throughout the game and defeated the Lady Rebels 71-59 in the Round of 64. 

The Lady Rebels end its historic season with a 31-3 record without losing a Mountain West Conference Game and making it to the NCAA National Championship Tournament two years in a row. 

“We’re knocking on the door,” La Rocque said. “We’ve got enough talent in our locker room to do this again and more.” 

Michigan will go on to the round of 32 and will take on the LSU Tigers on March 19 at 4:30 p.m. The winner of the matchup will proceed to the Sweet 16 against LSU.

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