UNLV Women’s Basketball defeated the Wyoming Cowgirls 58-51 at the Cox Pavilion to improve to an 18-2 overall record and 8-1 in conference play on Jan. 31.
With both Rebels and Cowgirls entering the game tied at 7-1 in conference play, the Lady Rebel victory put them in the first-place spot in the Mountain West Conference.
“That’s not like how we love to play, but that’s what the game called for,” UNLV Rebel Head Coach Lindy La Rocque said. “Our team stepped up for the challenge. I’m really proud of them for stepping up and doing it.”
Freshman guard Amarachi Kimpson and senior center Desi-Rae Young both scored double digits against the Cowgirls. Alyssa Durazo-Frescas contributed, scoring eight points and shooting 2-4 from behind the arc. Kiara Jackson finished with eight points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Malene Pedersen and Emily Mellema played well for the Cowgirls, scoring 12 points each.
Intensity struck the air early at Cox Pavilion. Wyoming played physical with Young early, not allowing anything in the paint.
While Young was double-teamed early in the game, Jackson and Durazo-Frescas were bright spots for the Rebels in the first quarter, scoring 11 of UNLV’s 15 points.
Jackson dominated the quarter, draining a 3-point shot with eight seconds left to tie the game 15-15 to end the first quarter.
Both teams exchanged buckets to start the quarter. A 3-point jump shot and a floater by Kimpson midway through the quarter extended the Rebel lead to 23-21 with 5:21 left.
The Wyoming offense went stale in the second half of the quarter, going on a four-minute drought without scoring. The Rebels defense continued to look strong as prolonged pressure forced missed shots to keep hold of a lead with 1:21 left.
The Rebels went into the locker room on top 27-26. However, the Rebels missed on an opportunity to extend its lead, missing back-to-back jump shots to end the half.
The Rebel offense struggled offensively, but the defense stepped up in the second quarter, holding the Cowgirls to 29% shooting from the field and 11 points.
Ashley Scoggin came out of halftime firing away, forcing a Wyoming turnover and scoring five points in 30 seconds. Scoggin continued to secure multiple rebounds, which led to transition points for the Rebels with 7:21 left.
The UNLV crowd erupted after an ankle-breaking crossover by Jackson that led to a 3-point jump shot by Durazo-Frescas, giving the Rebels a 37-30 lead with 4:44 left.
The momentum continued for the Rebels. After two missed free throws by Marta Savic, a 3-point play by Kimpson gave UNLV a 40-36 lead with 1:12 left.
“I feel like getting an and-one is like the best feeling ever,” Kimpson said. “It just gives the team a lot more energy throughout the game.”
The Rebels came into the fourth quarter aggressive, forcing multiple missed shots, steals, and relentlessly attacking the basket. Young started the quarter by hitting a hook shot to put the Rebels up six with 9:09 left.
The Rebels went on a six-point run with 6:53 left. Led by Young’s intimidating paint defense and multiple made shots, the Cowgirls were forced to call a timeout.
Wyoming responded out of the timeout, going on a 14-2 run to cut the Rebel lead to six with 2:18 left.
It was a multiple-team effort to finish the game. Wyoming’s slow-pace offense benefited the Rebels by forcing multiple turnovers and missed shots down the stretch.
“That’s their style, and that’s what they live and die by. Obviously, I respect them for it,” said La Rocque. “Tonight, I guess it did work in our favor a little bit.”
Young and Jackson knocked down multiple free throws, and two game-winning steals by Kimpson and Durazo Frescas sealed the deal for the Rebels, making the final score 58-51.
UNLV is back on the road to play the New Mexico Lobos on Feb. 3 for its first game of a two-game road trip. Tip-off will be at 1:00 p.m.
“I don’t think anyone in our locker room forgot what happened the first time we played them,” said La Rocque. “We’ve got a big test upon ourselves. I think we’re carrying that nasty taste in our mouths down there with us.”