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UNLV's terrific zone offense against Morehead State

UNLV struggled against the zone for most of the game, but Dave Rice and his staff had some brilliant plays that got the Rebels points against Morehead State’s defense.

Ethan Miller

While UNLV’s 1-2-2 zone defense was shutting down Morehead State, the Runnin’ Rebels were struggling against Morehead State’s zone defense as well. But UNLV ran two wonderful plays out of timeouts to beat the zone.

"We ran some great zone specials in the second half. Ryan Miller did a great job in organizing our zone offense," head coach Dave Rice said. "Those zone specials we ran broke the game in our favor."

So what were those zone specials? One was the most bizarre high ball screen set I’ve seen.

Those are inside screens, which are creating a lane for Doolin to drive into the heart of the defense. This penetration draws two defenders to step up and cut Doolin off.

Also notice the screen that Dwayne Morgan sets on the block. This screen, combined with Doolin drawing help defenders, gets Chris Wood wide open for an and-one dunk.

Doolin does a nice job passing around the defense to Wood, but this type of set up can lead to Doolin being trapped with nowhere to go. The other option on this play is for either of the two screeners to pop open for a three. Rashad Vaughn and Patrick McCaw were both uncovered on the three-point line.

The other zone special also got Wood free under the basket. Now this one is a bit harder to see because of the camera angle.

What’s happening here is that Rashad Vaughn cuts right to left on the screen to set a screen. Meanwhile Goodluck Okonoboh steps in from the block to screen the middle man of the 2-3 zone.

These screens are creating a 2-on-1 situation. Patrick McCaw is going left to right to the corner for a three. At the same time Wood is going the same direction to the block. This design leaves 32 for Morehead State as the only defender that can guard Wood and McCaw. All Doolin has to do is make the right read.

Two wonderful plays against a zone offense. The biggest concern for UNLV is that they had to have a timeout to design these. Rice mentioned that with a lot of freshman, his team still has a long way to go with offensive execution. It would be a big step forward in offensive efficiency if the Runnin’ Rebels could run these plays on the fly.

Now this wasn’t a zone special, but it was Cody Doolin’s only shot of the game.

That is a beautiful spin while using the ball screen. It allows Doolin to penetrate the zone and ultimately score. The defender in the corner stunts at Doolin but ends up staying with Morgan in the corner. That’s the read Doolin will have to make; if defenders are afraid to leave to help, Doolin has to score himself.

UNLV (1-0) will take on Sam Houston State (1-0) Sunday. It is a short turnaroud for UNLV after the Runnin' Rebels beat Morehead State 60-59 on Friday night. Sam Houston State also won on Friday by beating Austin College 100-52.

Per Synergy Sports, Sam Houston State played just 5.2 percent of their defensive possessions in a zone last season. So UNLV may not need to run any zone offense.

The Bearkats won 24 games last season and fell one game short of the NCAA Tournament when they lost in the Southland Conference Tournament Championship. They return two players that averaged double-digit points last season in Jabari Peters and Kaheem Ransom.

The game tips at 5:00 p.m. PST and can seen online here.