Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010 | 11:34 p.m.
After defeating Texas Christian University in the 2009 Mountain West Conference Quarterfinals last season, the UNLV women’s basketball team hoped to rack up its first home win against the Horned Frogs on Saturday.
The Lady Rebels came out with intensity in the first period, shooting 55.6 percent from the 3-point line and grabbing 19 boards.
UNLV led at the half 35-28 but couldn’t find a way to match No. 23 TCU’s aggression in the second period, resulting in a 61-81 loss at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.
To many, including head coach Kathy Olivier, it seemed like watching two separate ball games.
“The first half, we were very aggressive and came out and really executed,” Olivier said. “The second half, they (TCU) showed they’re in the top 23 (teams of the AP poll.) We were caught off balance, and they were really explosive and took it to the basket, so it was a completely different game.”
Fans cheered from the bleachers during the first half when junior guard India Chaney scored a 3-pointer that tied the game at 23 with 5:46 remaining in the half. She followed up with a steal mid-court and drove to the basket for an easy layup that gave the Rebels their first lead of the game.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore forward Jamie Smith and junior guard Erica Helms helped extend UNLV’s lead to six, 33-27.
But when the second half rolled around, the Rebels struggled to create offensive plays and did not score for the first eight minutes.
“I think they came out a little harder than us in the second half and it kind of took us by surprise,” Smith said. “We needed somebody to step up and take leadership, and I can take ownership for that.”
Smith led the team with 15 points and 13 rebounds, making this her sixth double-double of the season. Chaney was the second-leading scorer of the game with 13 points and five steals.
Chaney said she knew TCU would try to make a run in the second half by becoming more physical.
“They actually took less threes in the second half, so they didn’t beat us on the outside,” Chaney said. “They just kept beating us on the inside.”
The Horned Frogs were 2-of-14 from the 3-point line in the second half but dominated in the paint, scoring 28-of-60 overall.
UNLV finally settled into an offensive rhythm after freshman guard Mia Bell drove to the basket between two defenders for a layup at the 12:12 mark.
The basket gave fans hope that the Rebels could come back from a 12-point deficit, but UNLV never led in the game again.
“I think we got so far behind, and we were just trying to scramble,” Smith said. “When you start to scramble, you foul more and throw up quicker shots because you have to try to get back in the game.”
Smith said the team had trouble creating an offense because TCU switched up its defense.
“Our offense wasn’t going and our defense wasn’t going, so we went through a hard period,” Smith said.
Olivier said it took the team five or six minutes to adjust to the Horned Frogs’ defensive tactics. But when the Rebels tried to make a run, she said, TCU became more athletic and took the game to a new level.
Both teams suffered an excessive number of fouls. Chaney and Helms finished the game with four fouls each, while Smith, Bell, and freshman guards Kelli Thompson and Amanda Anderson collected three each.
Smith said the fouls were caused by the game’s aggressive tone in the second half. She said the Rebels were trying to make up for the speed of the game toward the end and drew too many fouls.
TCU went to the foul line 25 times overall and made 20 shots. UNLV was 11-of-14 from the free throw line.
The Rebels are now 0-of-4 against TCU at home and have dropped to 1-5 in the Mountain West Conference.
The Lady Rebels are scheduled to play Air Force at 5 p.m. on Jan. 26 at the Clune Arena in Colorado.
Smith said the Rebels will have to establish a lead at the beginning of the game and try to keep it, because Air Force will build on any lead it gets.
She said she also hopes to improve on the team’s home record of 3-9.
“It was one of our team goals to win every home game, but it hasn’t been that way right now,” Smith said. “But we have to keep in mind it’s only the first half of the conference, and we get to play every team we’ve lost to again. We have a chance to get back at them when we’re here at home, so it’s going to be important for us to start getting our home-floor advantage back.”