UNLV WOMEN’S BASKETBALL DOUBLES UP AIR FORCE IN 87-43 VICTORY
Lady Rebels post largest-ever winning margin in Mountain West play
Thanks to a total team effort that included the most steals in 14 years, UNLV cruised to a record-setting 87-43 victory over Air Force on Saturday afternoon in Mountain West women’s basketball action at Cox Pavilion. With the win, the Lady Rebels move into a tie for sixth place in the Mountain West at 8-8, along with San Diego State. That sets up a key contest on Tuesday, as UNLV (11-17 overall) travels to the Aztecs with the winner of the game locked into playing Air Force in the first round of the 2014 MW Tournament, while the loser will drop to no higher then seventh.
The 44-point victory is the most-ever by the Lady Rebels in a Mountain West game, topping an 82-41 win at San Diego State on Jan. 27, 2001. It also marked the first time since that SDSU game that UNLV had doubled up on a MW opponent’s score. In overall games, it’s the largest win margin since a 93-46 win over Columbia in Honolulu, Hawaii on Dec. 29, 2011. Another mark set in the game was UNLV’s 22 total steals, tied for its most ever in a Mountain West game and most overall since recording 22 against Wyoming on March 4, 2000.
“It was fun to literally play everybody and have everybody contribute,” said UNLV head coach Kathy Olivier. “We haven’t done that all season. It was a good atmosphere good energy, we had so many different people step up early on”
A total of 10 players scored at least four points or more for the Lady Rebels, and all 13 players that dressed out saw at least seven minutes of action. The starters led the way, with Alana Cesarz scoring 16 points on 6-8 shooting and Danielle Miller right behind her with 13, while Amie Callaway added eight points and a career-high 10 rebounds. The bench was emptied in the final 10 minutes, and several Lady Rebels took advantage of their extra playing time, as Briana Charles scored in double-figures for the second time this year with 10 points, and Rejane Verin posted 11 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Two-sport athlete Denali Murnan received a career-high 10 minutes of action and made the most of it, with all new career-highs after knocking down three of four shots for six points, grabbing three rebounds and coming up with four steals.
“I thought Mia (Bell) was doing a great job leading the team, Alana was making her shots and Danielle was playing super aggressive so it was a whole unit doing it and doing it together,” said Olivier. “Its been a long year, its been frustrating at times, but I felt like the girls put all that past and now they’re really focusing on getting ready for the tournament. It was really good basketball by us today.”
UNLV held a 31-14 overall edge on points off turnovers after forcing Air Force (1-25, 0-16 MW) into 28 for the game. The Lady Rebels also held a 49-30 advantage on the boards, leading to an 18-4 difference in second chance points. UNLV finished the game shooting 46.3% (31-of-67), was 4-of-11 from three-point range for 36.4%, and made 21-of-29 at the line for 72.4%.
Air Force had three players in double-figures, Jimi Blagowsky and Missy Byrd both with 10, and Madeleine Philpot with 10. The rest of the team combined for just nine points. The Falcons were held to 34.5% shooting (19-of-55) from the floor, were 1-of-12 from three-point land and 4-of-10 at the charity stripe.
UNLV opened the game with a 13-2 edge, but then went to its bench early, and Air Force took advantage by scoring eight straight to close within 13-10 on a jumper from Blagowsky at the 13:38 mark. The Falcons stayed close for the next seven minutes, and the game was in single digits for the last time on a jumper from Camille Thompson for a 28-20 game with 5:59 to play in the half. Charles quickly answered the basket with a layup at the other end, and then she came up with two straight steals on consecutive Air Force possessions, turning both into fast break layups. UNLV added three more points to complete the 9-0 run, and Air Force came no closer then 13 points the rest of the half, with the Lady Rebels taking a 44-26 edge into the break.
The Lady Rebels slowly increased their lead in the second half, and was up 69-36 off a pair of Bell free throws with exactly 10 minutes left. The starters then sat for the rest of the game, and UNLV’s bench would finish the contest outscoring Air Force 18-6.
UNLV’s game at San Diego State on Tuesday will have a 6 pm tip-off.