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What we learned about UNLV's half-court offense

UNLV took out an undersized and over-matched foe Wednesday. But we can still learn how Dave Rice plans to use some of his new pieces.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick McCaw’s shooting night didn’t start well, but he ended up shooting 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Plus he benefited from this well-designed play.

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The ball is swung around the perimeter while McCaw comes off of a screen to the block. Immediately after Cody Doolin gets a double screen and catches the ball at the top of the key.

Florida National is switching everything, which prevents an open lanes to pass or drive to the basket. But at the same time Florida National gives UNLV three feet of cushion to freely pass around the perimeter.

Ultimately, McCaw comes off a double baseline screen to get free in the corner because Florida National is unsure who is supposed to switch out on to McCaw in the corner.

Against quality opponents, defenders may be talented enough to fight through the screens and contest McCaw’s shot. But these types of plays often make the defense switch.

McCaw3

Chris Wood’s defender is the best option for the defense to cover out to McCaw. And when teams do that, Wood will become open for a couple of seconds on the block.

The issue for UNLV is Rashad Vaughn cutting baseline; this destroys UNLV’s spacing. Vaughn drags an extra defender into a small area, and that would allow for a defense to have an extra body to defend the McCaw-Wood duo. Vaughn needs to stay in the corner so his defender can’t leave to help.

Now onto what may be UNLV’s best quick hitter, a Doolin-Wood pick and pop.

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First off, Dwayne Morgan sets a screen for Wood to go screen for Doolin. This makes Wood’s defender late to defending the ball screen. Florida National does a pretty good job defending the ball screen, but when Doolin dribbles back towards the free throw line, Wood’s defender stunts at Doolin.

"If I can drag his man out and hit him (with a pass) when he’s open. He can shoot for as tall as he is; he shoots really well," Doolin said. "I think that’s a good play for us."

That stunt gives Doolin the space to create a dribble handoff, and Wood buried the three.

Typically UNLV will look to hit Wood as soon as Doolin comes off the screen. This one dragged out a bit longer than usual. Plus the other option, and possibly the better option, is for Wood to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket.

Depending on how well Wood shoots form three this season will determine just how efficient that three off the pick and pop will be; he made 11 of 50 (22%) three pointers last season.

The majority of good offense came in transition for UNLV Wednesday night. Doolin and Kendall Smith found the holes in the defense, and Wood, Morgan and Goodluck Okonoboh cleaned up on the offensive glass – something we won’t expect the undersized Rebels to do consistently. But there were quality half-court sets in UNLV’s 100-65 victory.