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How UNLV's zone defense struggled in Brooklyn

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Stanford roasted the UNLV 1-2-2 zone with hot shooting and a simple overload in the corner.

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UNLV’s 1-2-2 zone has been effective in three of the Rebels first four games. But Stanford obliterated the zone, and they did it with good shooting and superb positioning.

The 1-2-2 zone has given up shots in the corner, but only Stanford made UNLV pay. Plus the beatdown showed off a simple to play to beat the Rebel zone.

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That’s one of the many corner threes Stanford hit Friday night, but the positioning is more important that the shot. Whichever Stanford player – in this case Marcus Allen – had the ball at the top of the key would pass to the wing then cut to the corner. Simultaneously Rosco Allen is getting post position on Jordan Cornish on the block.

Cornish is who Stanford is picking on here, but it isn’t because Cornish is a weak defender. It is because the corner is a weakness of the 1-2-2, and they are making Cornish defend two players.

The player cutting to the corner is Cornish’s responsibility, but in this instance, so is the player on the block. Essentially Cornish has to choose, and Stanford just passes to the open man.

The very next possession they picked on Chris Wood.

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Wood is able to stay in front of the post, but the slightest ball fake to the corner gets Wood to jump. This leaves Allen open for a post up on the shorter Cornish. The end result is a foul.

UNLV finally figured out the set up about a minute later.

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Cornish takes away the pass to the corner and Wood has come to opposite block to defend the post up. Wood uses his length to knock away the pass. This is one of the few times UNLV wasn’t suckered into one guy guarding two.

The other key on this play is Patrick McCaw on the weakside. He drops with the backside post so that Wood doesn’t have to deal with two players on opposite blocks. Stanford could have put a player in the weakside corner to make this more difficult to defend, but UNLV showed it could defend the corner and post up at the same time, even it took 18 minutes.

Another interesting note on the Rebels playing zone was the 1-3-1 zone that UNLV debuted. The bizarre part of this 1-3-1 was that Dave Rice put his point guard as the final man in the 1-3-1.

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Cody Doolin or Patrick McCaw played that back role, and as you can see, Doolin doesn’t provide much rim protection once the ball is in the lane.

As in the 1-2-2 zone, the 1-3-1 can struggle defending the corners. Putting Doolin or McCaw here allows for a guard to cover corner to corner more quickly than a post. But none of the Rebel big guys are slow lumbering forwards. Goodluck Okonoboh, Chris Wood and Dwayne Morgan are all quick enough for this role. Plus they would provide more rim protection.

It was an odd defensive choice, but Morgan is a really good candidate for the point man in the 1-3-1, so we’ll have to see if Rice goes back to it this season.