Broncos Buck Lady Rebels from MW Championship
By W.G. Ramirez
Special to TheMW.com
LAS VEGAS - Boise State had already hit a jackpot once in Vegas, so why not another?
The No. 4 Broncos (20-10) - who won their regular-season visit to UNLV, 78-67, on Jan. 14 - knocked off the fifth-seeded Lady Rebels (13-17) on their home turf in Tuesday's quarterfinal clash in the 2015 Mountain West Women's Championship at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Boise State will face eighth-seeded San Jose State (15-16) in Wednesday's 6 p.m. semifinal. It'll mark the second-ever semifinal appearance for the Broncos since joining the Mountain West.
UNLV negated an early 7-2 deficit, by using a 9-2 run to tie the game with 12:52 left in the first half, but the Broncos responded. After falling behind by two at the 3:00 mark, when Brooke Johnson nailed a 3-pointer for the Lady Rebels, the Broncos closed the half on a 10-0 tear behind 4 of 5 shooting to take a 30-22 lead at halftime.
It was a lead the Broncos would never relinquish, as they took advantage of UNLV's poor shooting to build leads as big as 14 with 4:24 left in the game and 18 with 1:51 left in the contest.
"I was really proud of our players, I thought they were physical and aggressive and I thought they did a great job of rebounding the ball," Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. "When we played them and got beat in Boise, they were very physical rebounding the ball against us and we really struggled. I was really pleased with that.
"It was a great team win for us. It's a great win because it's our 20th win of the season. We're excited to win and advance."
Boise State finished with a modest shooting percentage of 32.8 (19 of 58), including 9 of 27 (33.3) from beyond the arc. However, the Broncos intensified their defensive effort and held the Lady Rebels to their lowest scoring output of the season.
The Broncos, who also outrebounded the Lady Rebels (49-37) improved to 16-2 this season when at least three players score in double figures.
"Because all rebound, we've been working on defense," Broncos forward Miquelle Askew said. "We know where we're supposed to be. We're trying to do the right thing. It doesn't necessarily take everyone to be 20-point scorers, as long as we all play together and play well."
Neither team shot the ball well, and the Lady Rebels' dismal shooting from the free-throw line made things worse, as they hit just 6 of 14 (.429) from the charity stripe, while they were a bleak 4 of 18 (.222) from long-range. UNLV also shot a meager 27 percent from the floor in the second half.
"It's hard to end on this kind of note," UNLV coach Kathy Olivier. "I really actually enjoyed this group of players. ... I thought this team was always going to pull it out, they were always going to find a way, get it done. Today I thought our defense was better than it's been in the last couple games. We played good defense, held our opponent under 35 percent from the floor. But we just offensively couldn't get it going."
The Broncos were led by Yaiza Rodriguez, who scored 15 points and had eight rebounds. Deanna Weaver and Askew each had 11 points, while Camille Redmon scored nine, grabbed 12 rebounds and set the single-season school record for blocks with 70 after recording four against UNLV.
"It's the championship tournament, so we want to win," Rodriguez said. "Right now as a team, we know exactly what we want. We want to leave Friday with the championship. We're going to do whatever it takes to win."
The Lady Rebels were led by Alana Cesarz's 14 points and 11 rebounds, while MW scoring leader Danielle Miller was held to her fourth-lowest scoring output of the season with just 13 points.
Willie Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter: @AP_WG