UNLV keeps it close with BYU, can’t finish at the end
BYU had an answer for everything the Lady Rebels threw at them.
But despite a game-high 23 points and five 3-pointers from Mia Bell, UNLV’s comeback fell short, and the Cougars ended up winning 71-64 on Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“That one was a tough loss,” senior guard Mia Bell said. “I really wanted to beat BYU. They are a great team, and that would have been a really good win for us.”
Bell, who sat out all of last season with a knee injury, didn’t make a shot in the Lady Rebels’ season opener, finishing 0-for-6 against Santa Clara.
As she continues to ease her way back into the lineup, Bell finished 8-of-15 from the floor, continuously showing glimpses of her revitalized offense.
“I think Mia is not only going to score, but she is going to get other people to score, and that’s what Mia has to do,” said head coach Kathy Olivier. “It’s a little of her, and a little of someone else.”
Both Bell and Alana Cesarz got into foul trouble early with two fouls each, and were forced to the bench.
This year, with new hand-checking rules, and for a team that is usually aggressive and in the face of their opponents, it is a hard adjustment for the Lady Rebels.
UNLV committed 26 fouls, compared to BYU’s 20, and the Cougars had the distinct advantage in free throws, going 21-of-29 from the line. UNLV only went to the line 14 times, making only 10.
“Bottom line: free throws,” Olivier said. “Game came down to free throws.”
At halftime, the Lady Rebels were down only 33-26, despite shooting just under 31 percent from the floor.
The Cougars jumped out to leads of 11 and 12 points during stints in the first half.
“You can’t get in a hole against a good team, and that’s a good team,” Olivier said. “We kind of got in a hole. We fought like hell to get back, and then you’re almost out of gas by that time.”
Against Santa Clara on Friday, the Lady Rebels were down by seven points, but managed to make a comeback in the second half to claim a 77-70 win.
Tuesday night’s game played out differently. UNLV was down 59-56 with under four minutes to play, but the Lady Rebels couldn’t get any closer.
“That’s a heartbreaker,” Olivier said. “That’s a good basketball team. BYU is a top 25-vote [team], probably top-30 in the country. We played with them the whole time.”
The Lady Rebels ended the game shooting 42.1% (24-57). The Cougars finished 41.5% (22-53). Cesarz scored 10 points in the second half, finishing with 13 points. Danielle Miller also had 12 points.
UNLV finished with 17 turnovers, an aspect that the team struggled with last season as well. BYU scored 24 points off those turnovers, while the Lady Rebels scored 10 points off of the Cougars 15 turnovers.
“We just have to be more crisp with our passes,” Bell said. “We have to do a better job at getting open and making passes. We can’t turn the ball over.”
As UNLV heads into its first away game of the season, Sunday at 2 p.m. PT against Northwestern, Bell thinks the Lady Rebels need to work on being more together as a team, along with the turnovers.
“We [need to] set the tone of the game,” Bell said. “And once we start doing that, the wins will start racking up for us.”
Cesarz is looking forward to the game on Sunday for multiple reasons, but mainly because it’s a close enough location for her family to get to see her play.
“If we come out with the win, it will show how good our team is,” Cesarz said.