It was all Dave Rice could talk about in the week before the game: UNLV’s three-point defense was a major cause for the two losses, and South Dakota (3-8) had the shooters to give UNLV (6-2) another headache. But the defense stepped up.
The Coyotes came in shooting 36 percent from three, with three guards shooting over 39 percent. But UNLV held South Dakota to 2 of 17 shooting (11.7 percent) from behind the arc.
That was the focus all week for UNLV, and the ability to switch screens with fluidity helped shut down the perimeter shots. The Rebels tried switching screens against Arizona State, but often the young Rebels looked confused in Tempe. Not in Sioux Falls.
UNLV switched every ball screen, as South Dakota’s four-guard lineup didn’t pose many matchup problems for UNLV before or after the switching.
If UNLV can keep teams from draining threes like Stanford and Arizona State, they’ll easily finish as one of the best defensive teams in the Mountain West. They held South Dakota to .86 points per possession, the second lowest mark for the Coyotes all season.
UNLV played man-to-man defense the entire game, meaning there was no 1-2-2 zone, likely due to UNLV’s superior size and the threat of the three.
KNICK KNACK PATTY MAC
12 points on 4 of 6 shooting, four rebounds, four steals and just one turnover in 31 minutes for Pat McCaw. The sixth man is clearly one of UNLV’s three most important players.
Cody Doolin is essential for running the offense and to a lesser extent the defense, and Rashad Vaughn is by far the only go-to scorer. But Pat McCaw does everything for UNLV.
He is the best perimeter defender for UNLV, as he is constantly deflecting passes and turning steals into layups. He’s the back-up point guard to Doolin, but he also played some center for UNLV against South Dakota.
Dwayne Morgan, Chris Wood and Goodluck Okonoboh all picked up three fouls in the first half. So Dave Rice turned to Pat McCaw and Jordan Cornish as the "big men". Defensively Jelan Kendrick would start out defending the lone Coyote forward. But on offense, McCaw was playing the role of the center in the Rebels zone offense.
The Coyotes don’t pose much of a threat to a team going super small, but McCaw is now fourth on the depth chart for center.
- Wood, Okonoboh and Morgan all getting three fouls in the first half against a four-guard lineup is a scary proposition. With limited depth, Rice won’t get away with McCaw as a big man very many times.
- Okonoboh picked up his three fouls in four minutes in the first half. But he didn’t foul in the four second half minutes he played.
- Wood and Morgan each picked up a foul in the second half, but it is a quality sign that they can come out and play without fouling out when dealing with foul trouble.
- South Dakota had some success scoring and drawing fouls because the Rebels defense was spread out. The big men were often out on the perimeter defending, so the Coyotes had room to penetrate, or the big men coming to help were reaching more than usual after a long run to help.
- UNLV had six offensive boards in the first eight minutes but finished with just eight. The Coyotes had 11 offensive rebounds.
- Jelan Kendrick played a team-high 38 minutes. He had 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting and four rebounds. Kendrick had just one turnover; entering the game he had a team-high 23.5 turnover percentage.
- Rashad Vaughn had a team-high 18 points on 7 of 16 shooting. He was just 1 of 6 from three, which was the only major detractor from his efficiency.
- UNLV had a few possessions in a row where Vaughn had the ball at the top of the key. One was a pick and roll, another an isolation and the third was a set play out of a timeout to get him driving. The offense is at its best when Doolin or Vaughn is penetrating the paint.
- Dwayne Morgan’s shooting struggles continue, as he shot 2 of 6 on the night. He’s now shooting 38.9 percent on the season. He would increase that percentage if he cut out the jump shots. He hasn’t show the ability to knock them down, but he keeps shooting from outside the paint.
- Chris Wood played well in the 22 minutes he saw the court. He was 5 of 7 from the floor for 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. His foul trouble and 1 of 5 free throw shooting were the biggest negatives from his performance.
- UNLV was 14 of 24 (58.3 percent) from the free-throw line; the Rebels are now 59.3 percent for the season.
- South Dakota had 17 turnovers, a season-high for a UNLV opponent. The Runnin’ Rebels came into the game 167th in possessions per game, but forcing live-ball turnovers can get easy baskets in transition.
UNLV comes back home to take on Portland on December 17th. The game will be broadcast online through UNLVRebels.com. It is the last game before UNLV plays the Pac-12 duo of Utah and Arizona.