#MWMadness: UNLV Staves Off Boise State's Furious Rally, Gets Revenge for 2015 Defeat

 

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By W.G. Ramirez
Special to TheMW.com

 

LAS VEGAS - The UNLV Lady Rebels have two seniors on their roster, the rest are sophomores and freshmen. And for Aley Rohde and Amie Callaway, the last thing they're ready for is their careers to be over.

It showed Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Mountain West Women's Basketball Championship, as both came up with key plays to help No. 6 seed UNLV defeat defending tournament champion and No. 3 seed Boise State, 71-65.

As the Broncos were enjoying a 12-5 run late in the game, Callaway scored her only points of the game, a 3-pointer with 1:46 left in the game to push the Lady Rebels ahead, 67-62.

"I think it says a lot when your seniors are fighting like our seniors are still doing," UNLV coach Kathy Olivier said. "Amie hit that big three at the end of the game (and) Aley Rohde, she made her paint presence at the very beginning of the game. That was huge."

Rohde was one of five UNLV players to score in double figures, as she poured in 11 points, including 7 of 7 from the free throw line. Her performance from the charity stripe tied a Mountain West tournament record for free-throw percentage (minimum seven attempts) in a game and by a senior. She helped the Lady Rebels outrebound Boise State, 45-37.

"I am laying everything out no matter what," said Rohde, a 6-foot-4 center who played her freshman season at Arizona. "I'm going after everything I can and doing everything I can to not be done today, tomorrow, in a week. And just keep going."

The Lady Rebels were led by Brooke Johnson's first career double-double (17 points and a career-high 10 rebounds), while Dylan Gonzalez had 14 points, Dakota Gonzalez had 12 points and Nikki Wheatley scored 10. It marked just the second time this season the Lady Rebels have had five players score in double figures.

For Dylan Gonzalez, who struggled with her shot much of the regular season, it was the second time in three games she scored in double figures.

"It just feels good to get the win under our belt," Dylan Gonzalez said. "For me personally you just kind of have to forget about the last miss. And that's our team entirely. Even if we don't get a shot that we are satisfied with or if we miss a shot that we really wanted, we have to forget about it and move on to the next play. That kind of was my mentality going into this game, give my all, give it all my effort."

Boise State, which eliminated the Lady Rebels from the tournament last season, trailed by as many as 16 in the fourth quarter, but used a 20-5 run to get within one, at 63-62.

"We said to the team they're going to have one run, and they did make a great run in the fourth quarter," Olivier said. "But our team handled that. We put our foot down and said: 'No more.'"

Said Johnson: "I feel it was just us being relentless on the boards and staying poised the entire game; that was our word. And I think that just helped us go on our runs and stay consistent throughout the game."

Clinging to that one-point lead, Wheatley made the front end of two free throws, and Callaway came up with a big offensive rebound to give the Lady Rebels a fresh shot clock. Dakota Gonzalez then found Callaway at the top of the key and the 6-foot-1 forward buried her momentum-swinging trey.

Boise State missed its next three field goal attempts, Dakota Gonzalez made two free throws and after the Broncos' Brooke Pahukoa missed from long-range, fittingly, it was Rohde who sealed the victory with a pair of free throws.

The Lady Rebels held serve early in the game, as they built an 11 point lead in the first half. Boise State was able to climb back into the game, ending the first half on a 5-0 run to cut UNLV's lead to 36-30 at the break.

While both teams each had 14 turnovers, the Lady Rebels made the most of Boise State's outscoring the Broncos 24-7 with points off turnovers.

"They were the aggressor and took it right to us in the beginning," Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. "I was concerned in the beginning, they were a very good rebounding team and they kind of took it to us that first quarter rebounding. And then I think we kind of settled in. But just struggled. The rim kind of shrunk on us, and really struggled shooting. And that's one of our strengths. They did a nice job and obviously they get to advance."

UNLV will face No. 2 seed Fresno State, which beat the Lady Rebels both times they met this season.

"And for us to be in the semis, I think a lot of it has to do with our seniors ... and we have an incredible sophomore and freshman class," Olivier said. "We're a hard-working basketball team, and it's paying off right now. And we worked so incredibly hard and it shows on the court and it shows with the defensive effort that we gave."

 

Willie Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter: @WillieGRamirez