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Looking at Rashad Vaughn's superstar performance

Rashad Vaughn has been shouldering the load for UNLV's offense, and on Saturday the freshman showed out with 29 points.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Five games into his collegiate career, Rashad Vaughn dump trucked Albany for 29 points on 18 shots. The freshman showed flashes of dominance and NBA potential.

Saturday’s win over Albany was the first time this season Vaughn shot over 50 percent (11 of 18) and the first time he made more than two three pointers (5 of 11). It was an efficient display from a freshman still learning quality shot selection.

The most impressive display from Vaughn was his ability to create off the pick and roll.

Vaughn goes away from the screen and shows off a tremendous hesitation move to get to the basket. And at this moment, he had no path to the rim.

RV hesitate

That hesitation allowed Vaughn to get past his defender, but it also kept the help side defense at bay. If Vaughn had gone straight to the hoop, those back side defenders would have made his layup much tougher.

Vaughn only has seven assists through five games, but this one was gorgeous.

Cody Doolin doesn’t actually set a screen here, but this still functions like one. Vaughn’s defender over commits to stopping the drive, so Vaughn pulled out a terrific spin move.

Once Vaughn dispatches of his defender, Chris Wood’s defender steps up to help. That leads to the alley oop. A successful pick and roll is all about drawing a third defender and finding the open man he left; Vaughn displayed that ability in a highlight reel play.

One of the hardest shots to hit at an efficient rate is the off-the-dribble three on pick and rolls. But against Albany, Vaughn hit a couple of them.

Vaughn’s defender goes under the screen, which allows Vaughn to set his feet and bury the three. Going under on ball screens makes it much easier to cut off penetration. If Vaughn is going to knock these down with consistency, it can over expose defenses.

Either Vaughn’s defender will have to chase over the screen, which will make it easier for Vaughn to penetrate, or the screener’s defender will have to be more aggressive with a hedge or trap, which allows the screener freedom to roll or pop into open space.

The other significant part of this particular shot is that UNLV created a quality and simple shot with Cody Doolin on the bench. In the 16-point win over Albany, UNLV was outscored by four with Doolin on the bench.

Where Vaughn showed some great all around play was translating defense into transition points.

Vaughn doesn’t play very good defense on the ball screen, but Wood and Dwayne Morgan force a tough shot and Vaughn cleans up the rebound. Without that rebound it is an easy put back for one of the two Albany players under the rim.

After the outlet pass, Vaughn becomes a trailer. UNLV gets a quick, open three in transition despite playing 3-on-5 after Wood and Morgan fell down.

Then the play that sealed up UNLV's win. Vaughn took advantage of a lazy pass and went coast to coast to and finished the and one layup.

Vaughn leads the Mountain West in usage rate at 33.7 percent, which is essentially a combination of field goal attempts, free throw attempts and turnovers. Basically when Vaughn is on the floor, 33.7 percent of UNLV offensive possessions end with the ball in his hands.

What’s been extremely pleasant about Vaughn is that despite his extremely high usage rate, he rarely turns the ball over. Vaughn’s turnover percentage is at 9.4. Of the 12 Mountain West payers with a usage percentage of at least 25 percent, only Larry Nance of Wyoming has a better turnover percentage at 8.1.

Having a freshman handle the ball so much and not turn it over is extremely impressive, and if Dave Rice continues to rely on Vaughn so heavily, it’ll be critical going forward.

It has only been five games – three of which came against inferior teams – so Vaughn may start turning the ball over, or his ability to penetrate and get free off screens and drives will be diminished. But for now, Vaughn looked like a superstar.