LAS VEGAS – Arizona could not stop Chris Wood.
"Chris Wood was as good as he’s ever been at UNLV," head coach Dave Rice said. "He took it as a challenge, knowing how good Arizona’s frontline is."
The sophomore big man had 24 points on 10 of 17 shooting, and he did nearly all of his damage by attacking from 15 feet out. All Dave Rice did was give Wood a screen so he could get free to catch a pass inside the arc.
Then Wood went to work. He faced up and drove by Kaleb Tarczewski, or he shot over Brandon Ashley. Sean Miller and the Wildcats (12-1) had no answer. That’s why Wood could be a first round NBA draft pick.
To start the second half UNLV (8-3) went to Wood on the first six possessions. He went 4 of 6 from the field for eight points. The message was clear to Wood at halftime.
"Everyone was telling me to dominate. Coach said he was going to run a few plays for me, told me not to settle. He thought Brandon Ashley couldn’t guard me," Wood said.
Arizona came in as a top 10 defensive team, but the Wildcats had nothing to throw at Wood. This win will put Wood, Rashad Vaughn and UNLV on the map for the 2014-15 season.
For UNLV, this win creates a tournament resume. Dave Rice loaded up the schedule with tough games for his young team, and they came through in a major way. Now UNLV has more margin for error in conference play.
- Cody Doolin played 22 minutes. The Rebels were outscored by six points in those 22 minutes, meaning that UNLV crushed Arizona by 10 points in the 18 minutes Doolin didn’t play.
- It was the second straight game that Doolin didn’t live up to par as the team’s offensive general.
- Arizona’s super freshman, Stanley Johnson, missed a transition layup in the final minute that would have given Arizona a one-point lead. Then down two with less than 10 seconds on the clock, Johnson turned the ball over on the dribble, sealing the upset for UNLV.
- Rashad Vaughn didn’t have a super efficient night, as he scored 21 points on 21 shots. But from the 4:06 mark until 2:19 in the second half, Vaughn scored all five of UNLV’s points by getting in the paint.
- Chris Wood finished with a double-double, his seventh of the season, by grabbing 10 rebounds.
- Wood helped UNLV dominate the glass, as Arizona came in as the top defensive rebounding team in the country, allowing opponents to grab just 22 percent of their own misses. UNLV grabbed 35 percent of its misses; Wood had five offensive boards.
- It is the second straight game that UNLV has outrebounded one of the best teams in the country; the Rebels were the first team to outrebound Utah on Saturday.
- Pat McCaw took over the point guard duties for Doolin late in the game. McCaw ended up with 13 points – on 4 of 11 shooting – seven rebounds and two assists.
- It was the second straight game that UNLV ran a ton of ball screens for McCaw. And again he proved effective.
- Vaughn also got some looks through the pick and roll. And UNLV is starting to figure out what its strengths are offensively: Chris Wood facing up, McCaw/Okonoboh pick and rolls, Vaughn penetration.
- Goodluck Okonoboh had seven points on just two shots. He went to the free throw line 10 times, making five of them. He also had nine boards and two blocks.
- UNLV shot 62.5 percent from the charity stripe, which as an improvement on their season average.
- All five Arizona starters scored in double figures, led by T.J. McConnell’s 14. The point guard also had seven assists and was a problem for UNLV defensively.
- The Wildcats battled foul trouble, as Rondae Hollis –Jefferson, the team’s number two scorer, fouled out in 18 minutes of action. Tarczewski finished with four fouls.
- UNLV ran some new plays on the first three possessions of the game were heavy on baseline screens. They didn’t produce much, but I’d expect Rice to go back to them if the Rebels struggle to shoot from the perimeter.
- UNLV is now 7-0 against teams with animals as nicknames.
Pat McCaw, Chris Wood and Rashad Vaughn
Pat McCaw on getting a lot of ball screens:
"Just taking advantage of the pick and roll. Tarczewski was playing back off it, and I read it and dumped it off to Goodluck."
Chris Wood on getting a signature win:
"We’re just letting the nation know, we’re a good team."
Chris Wood on the atmosphere:
"That was about as loud as I’ve heard the Thomas & Mack since I’ve been here. It was really crazy. I’ve never been on the floor and had the fans rush the floor."
Rashad Vaughn on the fans:
"I was praying they would storm the court."
Dave Rice on his team’s performance:
"Against the number three team in the country tonight, our guys grew up a whole bunch."
UNLV will host Southern Utah at 7:00 p.m. PST on December 27th. Following that The Rebels open conference play on the road with Wyoming on December 31st.
Apparently Jelan Kendrick may have interfered with this late-game three from Brandon Ashley. Goaltending? Looks like it.
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