Ute Rally Ends Lady Rebel Season
March 8, 2011
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Utah broke a tie game in the final two minutes with a 13-2 game-ending run to end UNLV's season with a 55-44 victory in the first round of the 2011 Conoco Mountain West Conference Women's Basketball Championships on Tuesday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center. The game was the second between the two in the past four days, as UNLV had won the regular season finale 51-47, but could not come up with a second straight win over the Utes to fall to 11-20 on the season. Utah improves to 15-16, and advances to Wednesday's quarterfinal round.
In one of the lowest scoring games in tournament history, Utah held a 22-16 halftime lead and opened the second half with a basket for an eight-point edge. The Lady Rebels then played themselves back into the contest with a 14-4 run over the next 7:37 of the game. Most of the points came at the line as UNLV started to attack the paint. After Iwalani Rodrigues made a jumper to give Utah a 28-23 edge, the Lady Rebels scored seven straight, with four coming from Erica Helms on layups, while Jamie Smith nailed a baseline jumper at the 12:09 mark to put UNLV up 30-28.
That would be the only lead of the half for the Lady Rebels. Utah quickly countered with four straight to take back the edge, 30-32 on a Diana Rolniak layup. Utah attempted to pull away, but UNLV hung tough, tying the score twice more, the second time on two free throws from Helms with 2:07 to play to make it a 42-42 game. Utah would answer with a big three-pointer from Rodrigues on the other end for a 45-42 lead. A three-point attempt for the Lady Rebels was off on the other end, and Utah was fouled on the rebound. The Utes made one of two free throws, came up with the rebound of the second, was fouled again, and made two more free throws to jump out to a six-point edge, 48-42 with 1:18 on the clock. UNLV missed its final five shots from the floor, while Utah would make 9-of-11 at the line in the final 63 seconds to claim the victory.
UNLV opened up the game with a 6-0 edge thanks to three-pointers from Jamie Smith and Mia Bell. Utah came back to tie the game at 9-9 on a Rodrigues trey. The score was tied twice more in the opening stanza, at 11-11, and then again at 14-14 thanks to a trey from Erica Helms. Utah then reeled off eight straight, with back-to-back treys from Rodrigues for a 22-14 lead. Two free throws from Ta'Nitra Byrd cut the edge to 22-16 going into halftime.
Helms led UNLV with 14 points, while Sandrine Nzeukou and Kelli Thompson both added seven each. Smith grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. As a team, UNLV was held to 17.5% (11-of-63) for the game, was 3-of-17 from three-point range for 17.6% and made 19-of-23 at the free throw line for 82.6%.
Utah was paced by Rodrigues with 16 points. Janita Badon posted 13 points and 17 rebounds, and Michelle Plouffe added 12. The Utes shot 33.3% (17-of-51), was 5-of-18 from three-point range for 27.8%, and made 16-of-22 at the free throw line for 72.7%.