Mountain West Conference tournament:

Lady Rebels bounced from league tournament by New Mexico

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV Lady Rebel basketball player Kelli Thompson is seen Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012.

The UNLV women’s basketball team’s season ended for the second straight season against New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Thursday, the No. 4 seeded Lady Rebels squandered a double-digit first-half lead, falling to the Lobos, 72-59.

UNLV (12-19) led by 11 points with 11:50 remaining in the first half, but didn’t score for nearly 10 minutes in giving New Mexico the lead for good.

New Mexico was able to control the game by defending UNLV senior Kelli Thompson, one of the league’s top players, in the post. The senior entered averaging a league-best 18.6 points per game, but scored just seven points on 2 of 14 shooting.

“Frustrating is an understatement for me,” said Thompson, who averaged 25 points per game in a pair of regular seasons wins against New Mexico. “Great defense, that’s all you can say. I didn’t have a clean anything. When I tied my shoes, (the defender) bent down with me.”

New Mexico (17-13), which advances to Friday’s semifinals to face San Diego State, closed the first half on a 17-3 scoring run.

“I thought we did a great job the first five or six minutes,” UNLV coach Kathy Olivier said. “We came out. We were ready to play. We had great energy. We were moving the ball, working together, defensively really got after it, got some easy baskets.

“We hit a little lull there in the first half,” she continued. “They jumped up another level. That’s when they pretty much got control of the game.”

Rejane Verin, the league’s Freshman of the Year, had a solid game with 19 points and nine rebounds for UNLV, but it wasn’t enough for the Lady Rebels to erase the deficit. They trailed by five points with about two minutes to play, but New Mexico hit its foul shots in winning by double-digits.

Danielle Miller and Rmanii Haynes each scored 12 points for UNLV, which had 20 turnovers and just 10 assists against a tough New Mexico defense.

“You got to give it up to New Mexico, they did a really good job defensively on the Mountain West leading scorer,” Olivier said of Thompson. “Just kind of made her life miserable today.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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