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Starter’s ejection motivates UNLV’s 21-point comeback

After technicals and a Lady Rebel player being thrown out of the game, the contest was changed.  The crowd got louder and the team put their emotions aside and played for one another, helping UNLV get its first win of the season.

Tommi Goodman — Swish Appeal

FinalizeLas Vegas, NV — It is now that time of year again: college basketball season is back. The season opener in Las Vegas consisted of the first-time meeting between the UNLV Lady Rebels and the Portland State Vikings. The lights were bright, the music was loud, and the excitement and smiles were there during pre-game until the final buzzer.

During the first and second quarters, the teams were getting their beginning of the season nerves out as both teams were making mistakes that allowed points to be easily given up. Once those season-opening jitters subsided, UNLV and Portland State found themselves in a much better flow offensively.

While the Lady Rebels won the opening period, 18-16, the Vikings came alive in the following stanza to take the lead. By the time intermission rolled around, Portland State had the slight seven-point advantage, 38-31.

After the half-time break, there would no longer be a back and forth battle as the Vikings took control of the game and opened its lead up against UNLV. Freshman guard, Kylie Jimenez and red-shirt Junior transfer guard, Kiana Brown helped the team create more opportunities off of fast breaks and 2-on-1’s. They were versatile as they were able to take the ball to the rim but also able to take opportunities and scoring threes.

However, once the fourth quarter was underway, the game changed -- all momentum shifted to UNLV, creating a whole new competition.

While physicality was evident since the beginning, the final stanza brought out, even more, aggression as Portland State fought to sustain its lead and UNLV worked hard to overcome its deficit. The chippiness and shoving the only would last so long before Brooke Johnson and Nikki Wheatley were both assessed technicals. Making matters worse though, Wheatly was ejected from the game with 5: 27 remaining in regulation.

A technical can be used to a team’s advantage or everything can come crashing down -- the Lady Rebels accepted the adversity and rose to the occasion. From there the defense picked up tremendously as UNLV focused in on coming back to beat Portland State.

“The energy was non-existent in the gym, then all of a sudden we got a couple of steals and the crowd went crazy after that and I felt that our team jumped on that,” said Lady Rebels’ head coach Kathy Oliver about the team’s play in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“We want to win so bad, our emotions got the best of us and it's unacceptable but with that being said if we can channel that passion we can be a good basketball team.”

UNLV was down 21-points with 5:47 left in the game. Their passing improved and they would not miss very many shots as the lead the Vikings once held dwindled down right before their eyes. The Lady Rebels would use a huge 29-2 run to stun the Vikings.

With 16 seconds left in the regulation, Johnson redeemed herself of her earlier technical, by draining arguably the biggest shot of regulation: a three-pointer to tie the contest at 73 all and force overtime.

The hero herself, Johnson, knew that she had to have confidence in herself while being a leader and staying calm while taking such an important shot at a critical moment.

“We have been practicing off the court nonstop and shots that can be in a game situation and I'm really thankful that my team had full confidence in me when I was 0-for-8 from the three,” said Johnson. “We had to keep fighting and not give up.”

Much like the fourth quarter, UNLV had control of the five minute overtime as Portland State’s offense could not overcome the emotional-high the Lady Rebels were riding. UNLV would continue to capitalize on Portland State’s missed free throws and eliminate second chances to score by crashing the boards.

The Lady Rebels walked away after a hard, physical match with an 88-80 win over the Portland State Vikings.