Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Back-to-back wins against two Mountain West Conference squads had UNLV's womens basketball team fired up, but the Rebels' newfound confidence and shooting percentage quickly cooled off Wednesday night as they lost to Utah, 51-35.
The Rebels led the Utes throughout the majority of the first half, but the teams were tied at 17-all at halftime. UNLV's defense stopped Utah from scoring in the first nine minutes of the game.
The Rebels shot 19.4 percent from 2-point range and 10.5 percent from behind the 3-point line. The team was 12-of-62 on 2-pointers and 2-of-19 on 3-pointers.
Junior guard Erica Helms led the team in scoring with 17 points, including the Rebels' only two 3-pointers. She said UNLV's defense was stable in the beginning and stopped Utah from scoring in the paint.
"We held them at zero points for almost the first half, and I think our defense was working well for us," Helms said. "I just think we should have pounced on them in the first half. We just need to regroup from this and learn that when we have a team down, we need to put them down."
Missed layups, free throws and jumpers hurt the Rebels, and Utah took the lead early in the second half. As the game progressed, the Utes extended the lead to as many as 20 points.
"I looked up and we had one point in the second half and five minutes to go," Helms said. "After that, I was just kind of shooting the ball, and we were trying to get quick threes. We were just trying to light a fire under our team on the offensive end."
Other players also tried to generate some momentum for UNLV.
Freshman guard Kelli Thompson drove to the basket, but was unable to finish several times. She hit 3 of 19 field-goal attempts and ended the game with eight points.
Head coach Kathy Olivier said shots just weren't falling, and the team failed to find its way to the free throw line.
The Rebels were 9-of-13 from the free throw line; Utah was 8-of-15.
Olivier said her team was attacking the basket, but could not create enough contact underneath the basket to get to the foul line.
Coming into the game, she said, the team felt confident after winning two games against two top-50 Rating Percentage Index (RPI) teams.
"We beat a very good New Mexico team at New Mexico, and we come in and play San Diego State, which just whooped a top-25 team," Olivier said. "We were feeling good, but we need to learn how to play good while feeling good about ourselves."
The loss drops the Rebels to 12-14 on the season and 5-7 in the MWC.
The team will have a chance to redeem itself at 1 p.m. Saturday against Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colo.
"We do well with our backs against the wall," Olivier said.