UNLV Lady Rebels lose at home to USC, 86-72

December 2, 2018

By KJ Turkson

Las Vegas, Nevada -- The UNLV Lady Rebels were unable to overcome a disastrous third quarter in falling 86-72 to the visiting Lady Trojans from the University of Southern California on Saturday evening.  The loss dropped UNLV to 1-5 on the year, while the Trojans continued their perfect start to the season, improving to 8-0.

Head Coach Kathy Olivier’s team certainly fought hard in threatening to reduce the deficit below double digits, but in the end, they were simply outmanned on the inside after losing their starting center and leading scorer on the season, senior Katie Powell, to an apparent ankle injury midway through the second quarter.

The injury certainly made things more difficult, considering the Lady Rebels were already playing short-handed in the frontcourt with Powell’s fellow senior post player, Paris Strawther, already out with a left hand injury.  

The game would start well enough, with the home team controlling much of the early momentum, aided partly by an ill-advised attempt by ‘SC lead guard Minyon Moore to tell a game official about a perceived incorrect call moments earlier.  Her conduct would result in a technical foul being assessed, which as it would turn out, was a harbinger of things to come.

Moments later, Moore would find her older sister Mariya for a nice jumper in transition off of a nifty steal to cut into the home team’s lead. It would continue to be a show dictated by the Moore sisters, as Mariya converted on a nice pull-up jumper from mid-range, and then moments later younger sister Minyon would give the Trojans the lead when she finished off a traditional three-point play after being fouled on a foray to the basket.

Late in the first quarter it was Powell who was able to move her feet into defensive position in time to take a charge that got the coaching staff and the bench up off of their feet. The two teams looked to be locked into a tight game, as things were dead even after 10 minutes of play, tied at 21 apiece.

The game’s second 10 minutes saw more back-and-forth action, as UNLV’s mercurial dynamo, senior point guard Nikki Wheatley, continued to stay in attack mode, increasing the pressure she placed on the USC perimeter defenders.  Midway through the second quarter, things took on a somber note as Powell collided with a ‘SC player, crumpling to the ground in obvious agony after appearing to sustain a significant leg injury.

The Lady Rebels' interior defense seemed to decline in the immediate aftermath of the Powell injury, as both Kayla Overbeck and Shalexxus Aaron were able to work themselves free for uncontested Trojan baskets down low.

Later, it was Mariya Moore who would once again work a backdoor cut to perfection for an "and-one" contested layup.  The subsequent foul shot completed the three-point play and gave USC a 37-31 lead.

Wheatley sensed that her squad could use increased output and energy, as she made a concerted effort to ramp things up on the offensive end, asserting herself with a mini 5-0 run of her own to knot the score at 37.  This collegiate female version of Russell Westbrook would finish with a season-high 20 points on the night.

Later, it was freshman Justice Etheridge who brought the crowd and the entire Rebels bench to their feet, draining a nasty step-back jumper from the baseline and putting UNLV up two, at 39-37.  Sophomore transfer Bailey Thomas then converted on an uncontested three from the corner, giving the Rebels a three-point advantage.

The lead would be short-lived however, as Minyon Moore would respond just moments later, hitting a desperation heave from half-court to send things into halftime with the score tied at 42. The younger Moore was uber impressive all night, as she expertly dictated the pace on both ends, and finished with her second double-double of the season, notching 19 points to go along with 10 assists.

The second half began with Mariya Moore (18 points, 7 caroms, and 3 dimes) aggressively probing the defense before dropping off a nice look to Kayla Overbeck for the easy layin to give the Ladies of Troy an early second half lead.

Younger sister Minyon Moore would later convert in transition to give 'SC a four-point lead.  Then with just under 5 minutes to go in the third quarter, it was Coach Kathy Olivier who would pick up a technical foul just moments after one had been assessed to Wheatley.  Minyon Moore and the Trojans converted all four of the technical free throws, and a Cheyanne Wallace three-pointer moments later gave the visiting women of Troy an unheard of seven-point possession, resulting in a 13-point advantage, 63-50. By the time the dust settled, 'SC would end up outscoring the home team by 16 points in the third quarter, eventually taking a 73-57 lead on yet another Minyon Moore trifecta as the buzzer sounded.

The fourth and final frame saw the Lady Rebels fight valiantly to cut the deficit, with Rodjanae Wade making an impact on both the offensive and defensive ends, but it was simply not enough in the end, as the women of Troy cruised down the stretch.

UNLV will continue what coach Olivier said is an intentionally tough non-conference schedule when they travel to Durham, North Carolina, to take on the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 6th. The Trojans meanwhile, will have two weeks off, as they don’t play again until December 16th.

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