Freshman Kayla Woodward scored a career-high 21 points, but the Wyoming Cowgirls lost the Mountain West Conference opener to the UNLV Lady Rebels 54-51 Wednesday night at the Arena-Auditorium. UW rallied from a 10-point second half deficit, but managed only three free throws over the final 2:52 and fell just short.

Three missed three free throws in the final 28 seconds by UNLV could have sealed it. Yet, Wyoming failed to capitalize, as they turned it over once and missed two 3-pointers in the last eight seconds. A half-court heave by Kaitlyn Mileto at the buzzer that was just off the mark.

We're growing as a group. We just have to learn to finish. We talked about defending home court. That's something that becomes very important in conference play, and we had some chances tonight.

--Cowgirl Coach Joe Legerski

UNLV (13-4, 1-0) was led by Mia Bell with 12 points. Lenita Sanford and Markiell Styles added 10 each. This was the Lady Rebels first win in Laramie since 2009.

Chaundra Sewell was the only other Cowgirl in double figures. She scored 10 points before fouling out with 5:52 left. Mileto contributed eight.

A 15-6 second half run by Wyoming got them back in the game with 6:44 remaining. It cut the Lady Rebels lead to one, at 47-46. UNLV had pushed their advantage to 41-31 at the 12:46 mark.

The game started with a defensive struggle, as the Cowgirls held a 12-9 lead midway through the first half. The Lady Rebels took control thanks to a 10-0 spurt that put them ahead 19-12 at the 6:41 mark. It was a lead they would never relinquish. Two straight baskets by Woodward pulled the Cowgirls back within 19-16. Then, UNLV pushed the lead back to eight points, at 26-18, and eventually led 30-23 at half.

Wyoming (4-10, 0-1) shot 35 percent (19-54) from the field, which included 21 percent (4-19) from beyond the arc. They were 9-13 for 69 percent at the free throw line. The Cowgirls did hang tough on the glass. They were out-rebounded by UNLV 39-38, but the Lady Rebels came in plus-7 in rebounding margin.

UNLV went 22-56 from the field for 39 percent, but were only 2-of-10 from 3-point range. The Lady Rebels were only 8-of-13 (61.5 percent) from the charity stripe. They also had seven blocked shots.

The Cowgirls return to action Saturday with their first road game in Mountain West Conference action at New Mexico. Game time is at 2 pm, Mountain time from the Pit in Albuquerque. Coverage begins at 1:30 pm on KOWB (AM 1290).