LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The UNLV women’s basketball team is looking at Friday’s first-round NCAA Tournament game against Michigan as its most important game of the year.
That’s the message from Rebels coach Lindy La Rocque, whose team enters the clash at Louisiana State’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center on a 22-game winning streak.
“It obviously couldn’t be more true now,” La Rocque said Thursday. “We haven’t just said it, but we’ve lived it and prepared for it, then played like it.
“I think that’s really why we’re here, have a streak going and have won a lot of games.”
UNLV (31-2) has set the program’s single-season for wins record by three. Only top-ranked South Carolina (32-0) has a higher winning percentage this season.
On Thursday, during a news conference, the Rebels deflected the focus on their streak and pointed to what matters most—the next game.
UNLV, seeded 11th in the Greenville Region 2, faces No. 6 at noon (ESPNU). It marks the first time UNLV is the underdog in a game since its last loss, 87-62 at Oklahoma State on Dec. 18.
“We don’t just want to be excited to be here, we want to get past that first game,” said senior point guard Essence Booker (Spring Valley High School). “Really, it gets kind of easy for us to flip to a new chapter. We had the nonconference season, conference season we went undefeated. Then we flipped to a new chapter in the conference tournament, went 3-0. We want to go 1-0 tomorrow.”
When it faces the Wolverines, UNLV will be trying to end a streak of 14 consecutive losses against Associated Press Top 25 teams. The Rebels’ last win against a ranked team was in November 2007, a one-point victory over No. 16 George Washington.
Michigan (22-9) is ranked 18th in the AP poll; UNLV is No. 22
“I think the biggest thing is this team knows how to win,” La Rocque said. “We have a great belief and trust in each other.
“When the game is close and tight, they don’t panic. They are really composed and poised…then they go out there and execute.”