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UNLV WOMEN’S BASKETBALL NEWS: NCAA First Round Preview

NCAA FIRST ROUND: UNLV vs. ARIZONA

Lady Rebels face the Wildcats at 7 p.m. Saturday live on ESPN2

No. 13-seed UNLV appears in the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2002 as it faces 4-seed Arizona at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, March 19.

The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2. Tip off is 7 p.m.

Live audio with Wyatt Tomchek and Kevaney Martin on the call, can be heard at UNLVRebels.com. Radio coverage will be carried on KRLV 920 AM in Las Vegas, as well as Sirius XM Radio channel 133 or 201 and Sirius XM App channel 964.

About UNLV

  • UNLV won the Mountain West Championship Game for the first time, defeating Colorado State 75-65 on March 9. It was UNLV’s first conference tournament championship and first NCAA auto bid since winning the Big West tournament in 1994.
  • Essence Booker was named tournament MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by Desi-Rae Young and Nneka Obiazor.
  • UNLV claimed its second Mountain West regular-season title, its last in 2018 was shared.
  • It was the sixth regular-season conference crown in program history and the first outright claim to such a championship since the 1989-90 season as a Big West member.
  • UNLV carried a 12-game winning streak from Jan. 6 through Feb. 24 that was the team’s longest since an 18-game winning streak in 1992-93.
  • The Lady Rebels’ 15-3 (.833) conference record was also their best since the 1992-93 season.
  • UNLV has made 209 3-pointers, breaking its previous season record for 3-pointers made of 193 set in the 2008-09 season.

UNLV vs. Arizona History

  • All-time series: Arizona leads 5-3
  • Streak: Lost 3. Last win vs. Arizona on Jan. 2, 1982 (W, 80-56) in Las Vegas.
  • First meeting: Feb. 8, 1975. Arizona won 96-63 in Tucson.
  • Last meeting: Nov. 13, 2012. Arizona edged UNLV, 83-82, in Las Vegas.

NCAA Championship History

  • UNLV is appearing in the NCAA Championship for the 10th time in program history.
  • The Lady Rebels are 3-8 in NCAA tournament games.
  • UNLV last won an NCAA tournament game in 1991. The Lady Rebels advanced to the Sweet 16 in 1989.
  • No. 7 seeds are 7-101 all-time in the first round and 3-4 in the second round.

Lady Rebels dominate conference honors

  • Desi-Rae Young was voted 2022 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.
  • Nneka Obiazor was selected the Sixth Player of the Year.
  • Essence Booker and Young were named to the 10-member All-Mountain West Team.
  • Justice Ethridge and Young were named to the six-member All-Defensive Team.
  • Alyssa Durazo-Frescas joined the five-member Mountain West All-Freshman Team.

Start me up

  • UNLV’s 26-6 record is the program’s best after 32 games since the 1989-90 Lady Rebels completed their season at 28-3.
  • UNLV had not reached 26 wins in a season since 2003-04 (26-8).

Distribution center

  • UNLV produced three of its most balanced offensive games as it moved through the Mountain West Championship.
  • Notably, the Lady Rebels counted assists from seven different players in two games and six in another with Justice Ethridge, Nneka Obiazor and Khayla Rooks all setting single-game highs.
  • In UNLV’s opening game against Utah State, seven players made at least four field goals for nine or more points.

What the block?

  • UNLV registered 15 blocks (five per game) in the Mountain West Championship.
  • The Lady Rebels blocked just 1.8 shots per game during the regular season.
  • Desi-Rae Young has five of the team’s postseason blocks.
  • Notably, point guard Essence Booker has counted all four of her blocked shots this season in the postseason tournament.
  • Five-foot-7 guard Alyssa Durazo-Frescas has also blocked a shot, just her second ever.
  • Khayla Rooks has two of her six blocks this season in the past two days.

Top 25 team / NCAA statistical rankings

  • UNLV ranks in the top 25 in four team statistical categories:
  • 17th, field goal percentage (.452)
  • 19th, scoring offense (75.6)
  • 19th, free throws made (447)
  • 20th, 3-point field goal percentage (.358)
  • 20th, win percentage (.812)

Copper State connections

  • Head coach Lindy La Rocque’s father, Alan, was coached by Lute Olsen (Arizona men’s basketball head coach from 1983-2008) while at Long Beach City College. La Rocque says she’s been to nearly as many games in the McKale Center as she has at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
  • Assistant coach Karlie Burris played varsity basketball four years at Salpointe Catholic in Tucson. Burris’ first assistant job was at Northern Arizona.
  • Sophomore guard Jade Thomas’ sister, Sam, is a senior on Arizona’s team.
  • Freshman guard Alyssa Durazo-Frescas’  great-grandparents Albert and Bertha “Bodie” Gallego are legendary Tucson  historical figures. Her aunt Norma is a former UA softball player and numerous family members live in Tucson.
  • Senior forward Khayla Rooks’ late father, Sean Rooks, played four seasons at Arizona from 1989 to 1992.
  • Freshman center Alyssa Brown is a Tucson native. She was the Gatorade Player of the Year in and holds Sahuaro High School’s single-season scoring record at 932 points. Brown led the Cougars to the state semifinals three times, including one state runner-up finish.

Up the quad and to the gymnasium / Longest winning streaks

UNLV reached a 12-game winning streak (Jan. 3 to Feb. 24),  its longest since  18 straight in 1993.

  • 22 games – 1989-90, 1978-79
  • 18 – 1992-93
  • 15 – 1977-78
  • 14 – 1990-91
  • 13 – 1988-89
  • 12 – 1984-85, 1975-76, 2021-22
  • 11 – 1982-83
  • 10 – 2003-04, 2001-02

Setting records in the classroom

  • The Lady Rebels finished the Fall 2021 term with a program record 3.44 team GPA.
  • Six players — Essence Booker, Alyssa Brown, Alyssa Durazo-Frescas, Justice Ethridge, Jade Thomas and Taylin Smith — earned Dean’s List distinction (for undergraduates only).
  • Graduate senior Khayla Rooks crushed it in her first post-grad semester, earning a 3.80 GPA in cybersecurity studies.

24 for 31 / Essence Booker

  • Essence Booker’s 31 points scored against New Mexico on Jan. 27 were the most by a Lady Rebel since Dakota Gonzalez also scored 31 in a 63-55 at San Jose State on Feb. 11, 2017.
  • Booker crossed the 1,000 career points scored milestone  in the game.

Free range / Essence Booker

  • Essence Booker ranks 13th among Division I players with a .887 free throw percentage.
  • Booker’s 14-for-14 free throw shooting against Boise State set a UNLV record.
  • UNLV’s single-season free throw percentage record is .889 set by Shari Netzel in 1988-89.
  • Booker career-long free throw streak ended on Feb. 12 vs. San Diego State at 32 straight.

Second impressions / Kiara Jackson

  • Freshman point guard Kiara Jackson is getting comfortable in the Mountain West. In UNLV’s rematches with conference foes, Jackson’s performance has improved two-fold.
  • In her second meetings, Jackson has scored 6.9 points per game versus 3.9 in the inital run through the conference schedule.
  • She has also improved assists per game by 53% and steals by 343%.

Point forward / Khayla Rooks

  • Khayla Rooks is the team-appointed “brain” of the offense.
  • Rooks has 93 assists to 39 turnovers this season, a 2.4:1 ratio.
  • In the last five games, Rooks has improved to a 3.2 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Diversity reigns at UNLV

  • UNLV is recognized as the most diverse university in the United States. For the fall 2021 semester, nearly 67 percent of students identify as ethnic minorities. This figure has increased two percent since fall 2020.
  • Approximately 31 percent of UNLV students are Hispanic and 16 percent are of Asian descent.
  • Nevada residents make up 86 percent of UNLV’s enrollment of 30,679 students.
  • Keith E. Whitfield, Ph.D., became UNLV’s first Black president (11th overall) upon his appointment on Aug. 24, 2020.
  • Erick Harper is UNLV’s first Black director of athletics, following the departure of Desiree Reed-Francois, the first person of color to hold the position.
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UNLV WOMEN'S BASKETBALL NEWS: NCAA First Round Preview
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UNLV WOMEN'S BASKETBALL NEWS: NCAA First Round Preview