UNLV women’s basketball wins with new starter Kiara Jackson

UNLV women’s basketball wins with new starter Kiara Jackson

UNLV sophomore guard Kiara Jackson admitted to feeling some nerves before Thursday’s 73-67 win against Wyoming.

Lady Rebels coach Lindy La Rocque decided to make a lineup change, handing the 5-foot-7-inch Grand Prairie, Texas, Jackson the second start of her career in the Mountain West opener.

Jackson revealed only that she was starting before practice on Wednesday. However, once she touched the ball on UNLV’s first possession, Jackson let her instincts take over.

“I was excited,” she said. “I felt like I earned it because I worked so hard in practice.”

Jackson thrived in her new role, leading UNLV with 20 points in the win at Cox Pavilion. Junior center Desi-Rae Young and fifth-year guard Justice Ethridge each had 13 points and sophomore guard Kenadee Winfrey added 11.

UNLV (11-2, 1-0) then hosts Colorado State at 3pm on Saturday.

Jackson is “a really good player, a young player,” La Rocque said. “I am extremely proud of him. She has done a lot of work, she is doing what we ask and she is delivering results.”

La Rocque’s decision to insert Jackson into the starting five bumped 2021-22 All-Mountain West guard Essence Booker to the bench. The senior has struggled with her three-pointer this season and entered Thursday just 5-for-33 (15.2 percent) from long range.

It’s the first time the Las Vegas native and former Spring Valley standout has come off the bench in her UNLV career.

“Essence is a leader for us,” said La Rocque. “She is old and her sacrifice tonight was great. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but we’re going to need it.”

The Lady Rebels fell behind early as the Cowgirls (7-5, 0-1) made their first three shots, all three-pointers. However, UNLV’s defense forced 10 turnovers in the first half that the Lady Rebels turned into 11 points.

UNLV also kept Wyoming center and Mountain West freshman Allyson Fertig quiet. She got into foul trouble in the first quarter and played just 16 minutes, scoring four points.

La Rocque praised Young’s defense for limiting Wyoming’s forward rotation, and the junior center had four steals and eight rebounds to go with her 13 points.

Booker entered the game as the first player off the bench and immediately provided a spark. She missed her only 3-pointer of the first half, but began aggressively hitting her mid-range shot and added four quick points. She finished the game with six points in 15 minutes.

The Lady Rebels built a lead in the second quarter, and Jackson’s 3 from the left corner just before the buzzer gave UNLV a 33-25 lead at the break.

Wyoming answered and the Cowgirls won the third quarter 27-14, going 4-for-4 from 3 and adding seven free throws to retake a 52-47 lead before the final 10 minutes.

Jackson helped UNLV finish strong. She converted a three-point play with 5:30 left and scored 11 points in the end, including five free throws.

“She’s maybe quiet or unassuming on the court,” La Rocque said, “but she’s a killer.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at [email protected] Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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