Quickly finding itself down 9-0 in the first few minutes of the game, the CSU women's basketball team could have folded, but it didn't.
The Rams (11-6, 2-2 Mountain West Conference) rallied to stun the UNLV Rebels (9-8, 0-3) in a 69-66 win on Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 2,562 in Moby Arena.
The second-straight conference win for the Rams was not the only special thing going on in Moby on Saturday. The crowd also witnessed one of CSU's most prominent alumni having her number retired.
Becky Hammon, who played for CSU from 1995-99 and currently plays for the Colorado Chill and New York Liberty, had to wipe back tears as the crowd cheered and a banner with her No. 25 was revealed hanging from the rafters.
"There are so many people here tonight," Hammon said during the halftime ceremony. "I just feel so humble and blessed. I didn't know it was going to be so emotional."
Perhaps inspired by Hammon, the Rams took their first lead of the game in the second half when junior guard Vanessa Espinoza hit a shot to make the score 51-50.
"To just compete and be athletic and get a win is just awesome," said CSU head coach Chris Denker. "I said to Becky, 'We're going to ruin your special day,' and she said, 'You just make it interesting.'"
Five lead changes in the second half kept many fans on their feet or the edge of their seats, and the players said they noticed the crowd.
"I wish (Hammon) could come to every game," Espinoza said. "She brings a lot of fans."
With CSU in the lead 66-63, UNLV made a charge down the court looking for a 3-point shot with just 29 seconds left on the clock. Rebel's junior guard Sheena Moore delivered, tying the score at 66, but giving possession to the Rams.
With just three seconds left, junior center Lindsay Thomas rebounded a missed shot by freshman Sara Hunter and somehow got the ball into the hands of junior Melissa Dennett. Dennett made her shot, despite being fouled on the play by Moore. She then made the free throw to clinch the game for the Rams at 69-66.
"I just kind of threw (the ball) up and didn't know (Dennett) was there," Thomas said of the play.
UNLV, who lost by three points to Wyoming on Thursday, seemed a little fatigued during the second half and its coach even seemed tired following the game.
"This trip has worn me out," said head coach Regina Miller. "Two losses by six points. We did get a little fatigued, but we've got to bare down. This is the toughest road trip."
UNLV was led by Moore, who shot 8-of-12 from inside the arch and also added five 3-pointers on seven attempts. Junior guard Nikki Hitchens was 5-of-11 and freshman starter Sequoia Holmes was four for nine.
"UNLV is a good team," Dennett said. "I think we just really wanted it."
CSU received good games from the juniors once again, with Dennett totaling 20 points and Espinoza and Thomas each adding 19. The trio combined for 35 of CSU's 37 points in the second half. Espinoza, who is continuing to recover from a concussion sustained before the start of conference play, had a team-best three 3-pointers. Thomas went 9-of-15 in the paint and Dennett was 8-of-9 on free throws.
The Rams will be back in action Friday night as they host Wyoming at 7 p.m. in Moby.
"I'm really excited about (that game)," Thomas said. "Wyoming always gives us a good game."
UNLV 66, CSU 69
UNLV 32 34 66
CSU 32 37 69
UNLV: Holmes 4, 2-2, 10; Hitchens 5, 3-6, 13; Henry 1, 4-7, 6; Moore 8, 1-2, 22; Coleman 2, 2-2, 7; Simmons 1, 1-1, 3; Thomas 1, 0-0, 3; Burries 0, 0-0, 0; Loftus 0, 2-2, 2. Totals 22, 15-22, 66.
CSU: Dennett 6. 8-9, 20; Thomas 9, 1-2, 19; Espinoza 7, 2-2, 19; Nohr 1, 0-0, 2; Walseth 2, 0-0, 6; Hunter 0, 0-1, 0; Kramer 0, 0-0, 0; O'Dwyer 0, 1-2, 1; Tor-Agbidye 1, 0-0, 2. Totals 26, 12-16, 69.
Rebounds: UNLV 36 (Holmes 8); CSU 42 (Thomas 10); 3-Point Shots: UNLV 7 (Moore 5); CSU 5 (Espinoza 3). Technical fouls: none
A – 2562