Season Opener Success

Nov. 9, 2012

LAS VEGAS ( - For the second straight year the game between UNLV and UC Santa Barbara came down to the final minute, and once again the Lady Rebels prevailed with a 58-52 win in the season opener for both teams in women's college basketball action on Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. The win was UNLV head coach Kathy Olivier's fifth season-opening win in as many seasons.

The Lady Rebels actually trailed by nine points midway through the first half, but used runs of 13-2 to end the first half and 16-8 to end the second half to pull out the victory. Leading the squad was senior guard Kelli Thompson, who recorded the first double-double of her career with 18 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, while sophomore Alana Cesarz played the entire 40 minutes on the way to a career-high in scoring with 12.

"Big win for the Lady Rebels, and it was a win for the Blummer," said Olivier, referring to Bob Blum, former Lady Rebel radio announcer who was honored with a recognition and moment of silence before the tip. "It was against a seasoned team that threw everything against us offensively. I felt we defended well, did a good job on the boards and was able to pull out a big home win. Kelli showed that she will never stop fighting, Rmanii (Haynes) did an amazing job at the point, and Alana played the entire way and really pushed us through to the end."

It was a tight game at the start, before the Gauchos reeled off a 10-2 run over a 2:28 span, turning a 9-8 edge into a 19-10 lead at the 8:48 mark. At that point the Gauchos were shooting 50%, but were held to just one field goal for the rest of the half. UNLV would score 13 unanswered points during the stretch, with points from five different Lady Rebs. A Thompson trey gave UNLV the edge back at 22-19, and the Lady Rebs would take a 23-21 halftime lead into the locker room at halftime.

After UCSB tied the game at 28-28, Thompson and Haynes combined for eight of the game's next 10 points to open up a 36-30 lead. The UNLV edge was five, 40-35, when the Gauchos made a second half run. As the Lady Rebels would go cold from the floor, UCSB used a 9-2 run to grab its first lead since the first half, 44-42 on a layup from Destini Mason. Thompson then took over, hitting a trey for a one-point lead. After Nicole Nesbit answered with a jumper to put UCSB back ahead by one, Thompson responded with a three-point play off an offensive rebound for a 48-46 UNLV lead with under four to play.

UCSB cut the lead to one off a three-pointer just under three minutes to play. UNLV then scored on back-to-back possessions inside the paint, and would connect on four-of-four at the free throw line in the final 13 seconds to seal the victory.

UNLV finished the game shooting 38.6% (22-of-57), was 3-of-13 from three-point range (23.1%), and 11-of-14 at the line (78.6%). Amie Callaway posted eight points and nine rebounds in her first career game, while Haynes finished with career-highs in points (seven), rebounds (five) and steals (four). The Lady Rebels held a 43-33 edge on the boards, and finished with eight steals.

Destini Mason led UCSB with 13 points, while Nesbit added 12 and Melissa Zornig 11. The Gauchos finished the night shooting 36.7% (22-of-60) from the floor, 2-of-12 from three-point land, and 6-of-11 from the charity stripe for 54.5%.

UNLV will play a second straight home game on Tuesday, Nov. 13, when it hosts Arizona at 7 pm in the Cox Pavilion.