The beginning was so promising for Cal State Long Beach in the Big West Conference women's basketball tournament championship game Sunday.

The 49ers' 2-3 zone smothered Nevada Las Vegas, their full-court press created numerous easy baskets and they built a 13-point first-half lead.

But Long Beach couldn't finish what it started, losing to UNLV, 67-64, at the Long Beach Arena.

The Lady Rebels' victory ended the 49ers' three-year reign as Big West champions.

The 49ers led, 28-15, after two free throws by Penny Moore with 7:37 left in the half.

"We played exactly the way we wanted to," Long Beach Coach Joan Bonvicini said.

But when the 49ers looked like they might coast to their first victory over Las Vegas this season--UNLV had beaten Long Beach by 30 and 12 points earlier--the Rebels rallied.

A 20-4 run in the final 5:45 of the half put UNLV into the lead for good. The Rebels led, 37-34, at halftime.

"Our kids were down at half, but I told them that they didn't play well and to forget about it," UNLV Coach Jim Bolla said.

The Rebels' lead increased to 57-48 midway through the second half, but they couldn't pull away.

"We had our moments, but we could never just get that break, like getting that important basket or getting that important rebound," Bonvicini said.

Pauline Jordan had 14 points and Lange 12 for UNLV (28-2). Angelique Lee had 21 points and 16 rebounds and Moore 13 points for Long Beach (24-8).

UNLV, seeded fourth, will play the winner of the Mississippi-Utah game in the second round of the NCAA tournament's West Region. Long Beach, seeded sixth, will play California in the first round Wednesday at the 49ers' gym.

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