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Behind Dwayne Morgan's poor offensive start

Morgan’s athleticism has been a major factor in UNLV’s defense, but he has been lacking on offense thanks to poor jump shooting.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Dwayne Morgan has been essential to UNLV’s defense so far this season. His length has helped Dave Rice run a 1-2-2 zone to help keep opponents from scoring at the rim. But Morgan has struggled on offense due to his inability to knock down jump shots.

Morgan is second on the team in rebounds, steals and blocks per game despite playing the seventh most minutes. However, the freshman big man is shooting just 39 percent on the season, but he could substantially improve his percentage – and UNLV’s offense – by getting to the rim.

Per hoop-math.com, Morgan is shooting 50 percent at the rim (13/26). But where Morgan’s field goal percentage is struggling is on two-point jumpshots. He’s taken 26 jumpers inside the arc and made just eight (30.8%).

In UNLV’s win over Albany, Morgan displayed the good and bad of his shot selection.

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Morgan catches and ends up firing up a long two-point jumper. When he shoots, Morgan has the option to try and drive right. If he beats his man, then he’ll either get a layup or draw help from Rashad Vaughn or Chris Wood’s defender. A good read by Morgan and UNLV has a quality shot.

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Morgan catches from a similar distance, but this time he faces up and attacks his man. The result is that no help-side defense comes to force the ball out of Morgan’s hands.

A good spin move and a left-handed score give UNLV two-points and Morgan a much more efficient shot. If he goes off the dribble rather than take the long two, Morgan will see his shooting percentage jump.

UNLV fans groan when Chris Wood settles for a three-pointer, but Dwayne Morgan (2 of 7 on threes) taking shots outside the paint should garner more headache.

Morgan hasn’t racked up huge numbers this season, but he’s been doing some of everything as the only big man off the bench for Dave Rice. Although the ball isn’t in his hands very much on offense, he has turned the ball over eight times this season, second-fewest among UNLV’s main rotation players.

There is one other concern for Morgan, foul trouble. He has committed the most fouls on the team and fouling every seven minutes on the court. Foul trouble is something UNLV can’t afford in its front court.

Morgan, Chris Wood and Goodluck Okonoboh all picked up three fouls in the first half against South Dakota, which led Dave Rice to playing a lineup of all guards and wings. That worked against the four-guard lineup of South Dakota, but Jelan Kendrick and Jordan Cornish might get roasted inside against bigger teams.

Morgan has been a major factor in UNLV’s defense that ranks 68th in the country in defensive efficiency giving up 91.2 points per 100 possessions. But attacking the rim would help the Rebels improve their dismal offense, which ranks 204th in the NCAA at 100 points per 100 possessions.