UNLV began its season opener Tuesday night by pushing the basketball inside to build an early 12-point lead.
And when the Lady Rebels trailed in the fourth quarter, they went back inside to trigger a game-changing run and beat Oral Roberts 85-81 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“It was a physical game, and they have great post players, but we do as well,” UNLV coach Lindy La Rocque said. “They were pressuring us and being physical on the perimeter, so we had to attack the basket.”
Essence Booker scored 21 points to lead four Lady Rebels in double figures. Desi-Rae Young, who went out briefly in the third quarter with an ankle injury, finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Keni Jo Lippe led Oral Roberts with 21 points.
UNLV trailed 71-67 when it went on a 12-2 run to take the lead for good. Eight of those points came on layups and the rest on free throws.
It was similar to how the game opened when the Lady Rebels made their first nine shots by repeatedly beating Golden Eagles players to the basket. UNLV led as much as 19-7 and made seven of nine layups in the first quarter.
Oral Roberts surged back by either keeping UNLV from the basket or forcing difficult shots when the Lady Rebels got close. In the second quarter alone, the Lady Rebels missed all six layups and shot 3 of 15 overall as Oral Roberts took a 39-37 halftime lead.
UNLV found a way in the end.
“It was gritty,” La Rocque said. “It was tough. It wasn’t pretty, except maybe those first two minutes. And after that, it was a total dogfight.
“It takes a full team effort, especially on the road.”