Michigan’s forwards frustrate UNLV’s Desi-Rae Young in NCAA tournament first-round win

Michigan's forwards frustrate UNLV's Desi-Rae Young in NCAA tournament first-round win

Midway through the first quarter Friday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, the look on UNLV center Desi-Rae Young’s face read exasperation. The 6-foot-1 junior stretched her arms out to the side and flipped her palms upward.

Officials had just whistled Young for a charge in the paint on a layup attempt after she pivoted, swung right and slammed into a wall of three Michigan defenders. Young is the Rebels’ best player. Entering Friday afternoon’s first-round NCAA tournament game, she was one of only three players in the country who averages 18 points, 10 rebounds and two assists per game.

The Wolverines’ top task was to stymie her in the post. And they did. No. 6 Michigan used its size and length advantage to defeat No. 11 UNLV 71-59 and advance to the second round of Greenville Regional 2.

“We knew Young was a tremendous player,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said, “but we have faced players like her in our league night in and night out, and I thought our post defense was really exceptional.”

In the first half, Young was 0-4 from the field and committed two turnovers. She finished her day with only 11 points on 5-12 shooting and eight rebounds.

“(Young didn’t walk down the court once without getting hit,” UNLV coach Lindy La Rocque said, “and that takes a toll on a player. And when you can bring two, three, four of them off the bench to keep doing that to one player, that’s what happened. They’re physical down there, and they met her early.”

Michigan took control of the game in the first quarter with a quick 6-0 run. Then in the third, they separated from UNLV with a 12-0 run, started and ended by center Emily Kizer. The 6-3 graduate player converted a layup down low to push the Wolverines’ lead to seven, then splashed a wide-open 3 from the left wing to force UNLV to call a timeout. In between, guards Leigha Browne and Laila Phelia added a pair of buckets. And point guard Maddie Nolan knocked down an open corner 3.

Kizer finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, shooting 6-13 from the field. But her defense, both down low and on the perimeter, was perhaps her most important contribution. Kizer took the assignment of Young, denying her entry passes in the post. She also switched onto smaller Rebel guards when Young stepped out to set screens.

“They had a really strong inside game,” Kizer said. “We knew that coming in that was something we wanted to really lock in on. (Young) is a really good player. We wanted to bring some of that physicality that maybe they haven’t seen as much.”

By the start of the fourth quarter, Michigan had three players — Kizer, Brown and Nolan — in double-figures. Brown scored 17 on 6-16 shooting, mostly from open midrange looks, and Nolan chipped in 18 points, largely from beyond the arc. She shot 7-10 from the floor and 4-6 from deep, taking advantage of the attention Kizer and Brown drew inside.

“(Nolan) saved us a couple times,” Kizer said. “When that score starts to get closer and closer, a 3 is huge. Just a huge momentum change.”

Phelia banked a pretty left-handed runner off the glass at the third-quarter buzzer, pushing the Wolverines’ lead back to 11. She scored only eight points and on 3-11 shooting, but corralled 11 rebounds, six of which were on the offensive glass.

UNLV simply couldn’t muster enough offense to compensate for Young’s quiet game. Guard Essence Booker led the Rebels with 16 points, but she shot an inefficient 7-21 from the field.

“I think they were just doing a lot of chair pulling,” Young said, “trying to front, just baiting me into different things.”


About Marc Lemoine 3297 Articles
Marc is an Economist and a well experienced weightlifter who has won many championships. He intends to build a bright career in the media industry as well. He is a sports freak who loves to cover the latest news on sports, finance and economy.

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