Lady Rebels Suffer Tough Loss To Gaels
March 15, 2012
MORAGA, Calif. (UNLVRebels.com) - The UNLV Lady Rebels (22-10) suffered a season-ending, 71-63 loss to the Saint Mary's Gaels (22-10) in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, Calif. The Lady Rebels were paced by a combined 47 points from juniors Kelli Thompson and Mia Bell. Thompson's 31 points were a game high and a personal best for the third-year player.
The first four minutes of the game were tightly contested and featured the only lead changes (two) and tie (one) of the affair. Following a layup by Thompson with 14:35 on the clock, Saint Mary's built its lead from one to double digits in a span of 4:18. The lead hovered between eight and 10 points until 6:56 remained on the clock when the deficit stayed in double figures for over 11 minutes and partially into the second half.
The Gaels lead bloomed to a game-high 19 points just 2:15 into the second stanza off a jumper by Jackie Nared.
Following Nared's jumper the Lady Rebel offense awoke with a 12-point run of its own to pull within seven with 15:19 remaining in the game. Thompson was the catalyst of the spurt with eight straight points off of two three-pointers and a layup. Sandrine Nzeukou added two free throws, while Danielle Miller chipped in a layup.
The lead would stay at seven until the Gaels got consecutive layups from Jasmine Smith and Alex Carbonel to extend it 11 points with just over 12 minutes left in the game.
Trailing by 10, UNLV went on a 6-0 run that cut the lead to four, the closest margin since seven minutes into the game. Unfortunately, that was the closest the Lady Rebels would get as SMC outscored them 20-15 the remainder of the game. Twelve of those 20 points for the Gaels came from the free throw line with 11 occurring consecutively.
"They're (Saint Mary's) is a good basketball team and they're really fast," said head coach Kathy Olivier. "We started off well, but we had that lull. We fought back and played together. It was a hard-fought battle."
Saint Mary's outshot UNLV 47.1% (24-for-51) to 31.3% (21-for-67) for the game. The Gaels made three more field goals (24-21) and five more free throws (19-14), while the Lady Rebels held a seven-to-four edge in three-pointers.
The home squad held an eight rebound advantage in the game (44-36). UNLV owned the offensive glass 19-12, but SMC notched 15 more defensive boards (32-17).
Thompson's shot 11-for-27 in the game from the field with a 5-for-15 effort from behind the arc and 4-for-6 from the free throw line. She added five rebounds, as well.
Bell's 16 points came off of 5-for-13 shooting. She made one three-pointer and five free throws.
Danielle Miller added nine points with one three-pointer and three makes from inside the arc.
SMC was led by 22- and 21-point efforts from Nared and Jasmine Smith, respectively. The majority of Nared's points came from the free-throw line with a 13-for-16 performance when the clock was stopped. She added five rebounds to her line. Smith shot 9-for-17 from the field with one three and two free throws.
With the season coming to an end, four seniors played their final games in the Scarlet and Gray. Nzeukou, Markiell Styles, Jamie Smith and Lenita Sanford end their careers as the first seniors to lead their squad to the postseason since the 2005-06 campaign.
"To get 22 wins, we had great leadership from our seniors and juniors," noted Olivier. "You've got to love our seniors. They're great people, great players and represented us well. It is sad to see them go."