Sanford Leads Lady Rebels Past TCU

Feb. 16, 2012

LAS VEGAS ( - In a game that saw several big runs by both teams, UNLV's Mia Bell hit two free throws with 11 seconds left for a three-point lead, and TCU had to settle for a layup at the buzzer in a 55-54 UNLV victory on Wednesday night in Mountain West women's basketball action at Cox Pavilion. The win broke a three-game losing streak for the Lady Rebels, improving them to 18-8 on the year, 6-4 in the MW, while TCU dropped to 12-13, 5-5 in league play. UNLV also earned its first-ever season sweep over TCU, and it was the first sweep of a conference opponent besides Air Force since the 2007-08 season, which came against Colorado State.

The game could not have started out any worse for UNLV, as the Lady Rebels were ice cold from the floor, missing 15 of their first 16 shots from the floor, as well as five of their first six shots at the line, a combined 2-for-22. TCU however was only able to open up a 10-point lead during that stretch, 13-3. Entering the final nine minutes of the first half, UNLV forward Lenita Sanford took over the game. Playing in her most action since suffering a knee injury against TCU in the first meeting, Sanford broke a six-minute scoring drought with a layup at 8:46 of the first half, and followed that with a long jumper 36 seconds later. That started a 21-3 run by UNLV to end the first half.

Sanford would score 12 points during that run, including the last four of the half, and also added eight rebounds and two blocks. A three-pointer from Bell tied the game at 14-14, and after a trey from TCU's Whitney Williams, the Lady Rebels ended the half with 10 unanswered over the final 3:21. UNLV would take a 24-17 lead into halftime.

With the lead at six points, UNLV reeled off nine unanswered for its largest lead of the night, 36-21 on a layup from Sanford at the 14:21 mark. The lead was at 11 points, 40-29 with under 10 minutes to play when TCU made its final run. Three treys, two from Natalie Ventress and one from Meagan Henson, helped fuel a 13-2 run over a 2:40 span. Ventress's trey at 6:40, her third of the night, tied the game at 42-42. The game was tied again at 46-46, but UNLV never let TCU take a lead, and reeled off five straight for a 51-46 edge with 2:09 to play.

Ventress wasn't done however, hitting two treys in the final two minutes, the second of cut the score to 53-52. After a UNLV miss, TCU had the ball with a chance for the lead, but a layup from Briesha Wynn was in and out of the basket. Bell was then fouled and hit the two free throws for a three-point UNLV lead. Ventress attempted to tie the game for TCU, but her contested shot missed the rim, and Williams' offensive putback at the buzzer accounted for the final one-point margin.

Sanford finished with her sixth double-double of the year, 19 points and 13 rebounds, and added three blocks and two steals. Bell was next in scoring with 11 points, while Jamie Smith added seven points and 11 rebounds. UNLV shot 35.2% (19-of-54) for the game, was 3-of-15 from three-point range for 20%, and made 14-of-21 at the free throw line for 66.7%. Though the Lady Rebels were outrebounded 40-36, they held a 19-3 edge on second chance points.

Ventress finished with a game-high 25 points. Latrica Lovings was the next highest scorer with eight. The Horned Frogs shot 38.5% (20-of-52) from the floor, was 7-of-13 for 53.8% from three-point land, and 7-of-15 at the free throw line for 46.7%.

The Lady Rebels return to action on Saturday, Feb. 18, when they host New Mexico at 3:30 pm in the Thomas & Mack Center in a game televised by The Mtn. UNLV will honor both National Girls and Women in Sports Day and the Play4Kay breast cancer awareness event during the game.