THOMPSON’S 29 POINTS, GAME-WINNING FREE THROWS GIVES UNLV WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
58-57 WIN AT NEW MEXICO
Lady Rebels win at The Pit for a fourth straight year,
stand alone in fourth place in Mountain West
Senior guard Kelli Thompson, leading scorer in the Mountain West, poured in a game-high 29 points, including seven during UNLV’s 9-2 run to end the game, and her free throws with 11.9 seconds left gave the Lady Rebels a thrilling 58-57 victory at New Mexico on Saturday afternoon in Mountain West women’s basketball action at The Pit.
It was the fourth straight year the Lady Rebels have won on the Lobos’ home floor, and it broke the tie between the two teams in the standings, moving UNLV to sole possession of fourth place at 5-4 (9-14 overall). UNM meanwhile dropped to 12-10, 4-5 in league play. Thompson’s free throws marked her first game-winning shot since her freshman season against VCU, and the first for the Lady Rebels as a team since a 46-44 win at UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 20, 2011 on a jumper at the buzzer.
“We had different people at different times step up today, but at the end we let Kelli take us home,” said UNLV head coach Kathy Olivier. “We feel like she’s one of the best players in the Mountain West, especially the way she’s played the past few weeks. Our team feeds off that, and was able to get her the ball at the right time today. It was also good to get a win on the road in such a great atmosphere for women’s basketball.”
In a game that featured eight ties and 14 lead changes, the Lady Rebels were up 43-42 with 14:49 to play before the Lobos scored six straight for a five-point lead, 48-43 on a jumper from Caroline Durbin with 9:27 on the clock. The lead was 51-49 in favor of UNM when two jumpers in a 24-second span gave the Lobos their largest lead of the game, 55-49 with 5:16 on the clock.
UNLV then clamped down on defense, forcing the Lobos into seven consecutive misses from the floor, and allowing just one made field goal in 10 attempts over the final five minutes. Thompson took over on offense meanwhile with back-to-back treys 31 seconds apart, the second hitting the back of the iron before falling in to tie the game at 55-55 with 4:04 on the clock. On UNLV’s next possession, Amie Callaway was fouled and made one of two for a 56-55 lead with 3:28 to play. The Lobos scored the next points of the game, a layup from Whitney Johnson at 1:36 to go for a 57-56 UNM lead. After UNLV missed on its next attempt, Callaway came up with a block of a Lobo shot, giving the ball back to the Lady Rebels with under 40 seconds to play.
With the clock winding down Thompson drove to the lane for a layup attempt that was off, but she rebounded her own miss and was fouled on the putback. Going to the line with 11.9 on the clock, she drained both free throws for a 58-57 UNLV lead. New Mexico took a long shot on its final possession, and the rebound was tracked down by Briana Charles and she dribbled the clock out to end the game.
The game was tight the entire first half, with four ties and four lead changes. UNLV took a five-point edge, 13-8, on an Amanda Anderson trey with 13:17 on the first half clock. New Mexico would tie the game at 13-13 and again at 15-15. The Lady Rebels then reeled off seven straight for its largest lead of the half, 22-15, on another Anderson trey at the 9:50 mark. The edge was 28-23 in favor of UNLV when back-to-back three-pointers from UNM’s Caroline Durban started a 10-2 run, putting the Lobos ahead by three with 1:27 to play. Danielle Miller tied it again at 33-33 on her first three-pointer of the game, and the teams traded baskets in the final 36 seconds to go into halftime tied at knotted at 35-35.
With her 29 points, the third-highest total of her career, Thompson moved past Pauline Jordan (1987-90) into fourth place in all-time scoring at UNLV with 1,706 points. She was 5-of-11 from three-point range, and a career-best 10-of-11 at the line, while also adding eight points. Miller was next with 14 points, while Réjane Vérin added six points and nine rebounds. As a team, UNLV shot 30.5% (18-of-59) from the floor, was 9-of-21 from three-point range for 42.9%, and 13-of-16 at the line for 81.3%. The Lady Rebels finished with just 10 turnovers, and posted seven steals and seven blocks.
Johnson was the Lobos’ top scorer at 12 points, and Caroline Durbin added 10. UNM shot 38.5% (25-of-65) for the game, but was just 3-of-18 from three-point range for 16.7%, and attempted only six free throws, making four of them.
The Lady Rebels will return to Las Vegas for their next contest, a Wednesday, Feb. 13 Mountain West game against Air Force at 7 pm in the Cox Pavilion.