Third time not the charm: Bulldogs take down Lady Rebels
After advancing past the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament for the first time since 2009, UNLV was looking to continue its Cinderella story as they went into Tuesday’s quarterfinal game.
Instead, the Lady Rebels were greeted with heartbreak after falling to Fresno State, 80-65, at the Thomas & Mack Center, ending their season. They finished 13-19, 9-9.
“I was surprised to see Fresno be on fire as much as they were for their first tournament game,” said head coach Kathy Olivier. “I thought it would take them a second, but clearly it did not.”
Fresno State started off strong. Ten minutes into the game, the Bulldogs were up 24-7, shooting 62.5 percent. UNLV struggled to get shots to fall and only shot about 18 percent.
By halftime, the Lady Rebels were down by 10, 36-26. Half of Fresno State’s points came from 3-pointers alone, making 6-of-15.
“They stretch you out,” Olivier said. “That’s kind of one of our weaknesses. We’re not great in transition D. Fresno does a really good job of stretching you out. They have a lot of weapons from the three range.”
In the second half, UNLV cut it to single digits a few times until the Bulldogs pulled ahead for good. Fresno State increased its lead to 20 in a matter of moments. The closest the Lady Rebels would come was within 13 points.
It was an emotional game for UNLV, ending a disappointing season. After fighting its way back to win over San Jose State on Monday in the first round of the tournament, emotions were high.
“We don’t like our record,” Olivier said. “That’s not fun. You know, good things come to an end. We’re not saying this is good, because you want to sit there and say we have over 20 wins, but the reality is they’re a really special group.”
Junior guard Danielle Miller led UNLV with 18 points, and sophomore forward Rejane Verin recorded her second double-double of the year with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Senior guard Mia Bell’s season ended a little earlier than she expected, fouling out with 1:21 left in the game. She scored 11 points for the Lady Rebels.
As she made her way to the bench, Lady Rebels fans applauded the senior who worked hard to come back from knee surgery and lead her team to a winning season.
When asked about fouling out, Bell could barely answer, as she held back tears.
“I don’t know. It’s hard to explain,” Bell said. “I can’t really talk about it. It’s something — it was just hard. I can’t really explain the emotion, it’s hard.”
Despite the outcome, Bell has five years of Lady Rebels memories, both good and bad, but Bell believes that every experience will help her in the future.
Now all the Lady Rebels can do is focus on next year. They have five freshmen coming in, as well as the return of some key players..
“We still have key players like Dani, Alana, Aley and everybody else on the bench,” Verin said. “We have some good freshmen coming up, too. I think we’ll be alright. Not alright, I think we’ll be great.”