UNLV won its first-ever Mountain West championship Friday night, as the Lady Rebels roared out of the halftime break to grab a 14-point edge and never looked back on the way to a 68-58 Senior Night victory over Utah State at the Cox Pavilion. That gave UNLV a 14-4 record in the Mountain West, and a share of the regular season title along with Boise State.
This is the first conference championship of any kind for UNLV since claiming the 1994 Big West Tournament title, while the last time the Lady Rebels won a regular season title was in 1990-91 when they tied for first in the Big West with Long Beach State at 15-3. UNLV also improved to 19-10 overall, while the Aggies dropped to 7-22, 5-13 in the MW.
The Lady Rebels struggled to get their offense going at the start, shooting under 30% in both the first and second quarters. Their defense kept them in the game though, as Utah State only led by more then three just once. The Aggies took a 12-11 edge after the first 10, and scored at the halftime buzzer for a 27-25 advantage.
THE TURNING POINT: Coming out of the halftime break, UNLV forced the Aggies into misses on five of its first six shots while turning the ball over three times. UNLV took advantage by reeling off an 18-2 run during the opening six minutes. Katie Powell, who had been held to just two first half points, scored the first five as part of eight unanswered points. Following a USU layup, another 8-0 spurt put UNLV ahead 43-29 with 5:09 to play in the third. The Aggies came no closer then seven points the rest of the way.
LADY REBEL OF THE GAME: On her Senior Night, guard Brooke Johnson tied her career-high with five three-pointers, part of a game-high 22-point performance off 7-of-10 shooting. She also added three steals and four assists in the victory.
STAT OF THE GAME: UNLV set a school record by hitting a perfect 17-of-17 at the free throw line for 100%. The first time the teams played, UNLV shot what was then the third-best percentage in team history, knocking down 22-of-23 for 95.7%.
LADY REBEL NOTES: * UNLV increased the lead to as high as 16 in the fourth quarter, thanks to shooting 72.7% in the final 10 minutes (8-of-11 from the floor). * UNLV increased its school record for Mountain West victories to 14. The last time UNLV won 14 conference games was in 1994 when it was 14-4 in the Big West. * Joining Johnson in double-figures was Katie Powell with 13 and Nikki Wheatley with 12. * Johnson moved into a tie for fifth in career assists with 375, along with Karen Hall (1984-88). She also started the 107th game of her career Friday night, tied for fifth most in team history.
NEXT FOR THE LADY REBELS: UNLV will open play in the 2018 Mountain West Championships on Tuesday at 6 pm.