Through the first 8:32 of UNLV’s Mountain West opener against Wyoming, Chris Wood had 19 points on 6 of 6 shooting. He had all 19 Rebel points.
Dave Rice introduced a new play that got Wood open on the perimeter with the option to shoot or drive. Here it is on the first possession of the game.
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It’s an isolated pick and pop for Cody Doolin and Chris Wood, as the other three Rebels are crowding the far side of the court. Also, Doolin doesn’t just run the defense through one ball screen, he reverses and forces the defense to defend back to back screens.
The only issue on the first possession was that Wood took a long two instead of a three or driving to the paint.
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Wood drills the much more efficient three pointer this time. But for Wood, it would be best if he drives the ball into the unattended paint.
After going 4 of 6 against Wyoming, Wood is shooting 31 percent from three. But before the past game, Wood was shooting 21 percent from deep, compared to 68 percent at the rim.
The underrated aspect of these plays is the set up. Doolin does a great job creating these opportunities for Wood, as the senior point guard strings the defense all the way to the opposite side of the court before delivering the pass.
Through the first six possessions of the game UNLV ran this five times. Wood knocked down four shots – two of which were threes – and had one turnover. UNLV even ran the play with Rashad Vaughn as the ball handler.
What leaves Wood open is Wyoming’s ball screen defense. The Cowboys want to cut off ball handler penetration, so Wood’s defender looks to stay in front of Doolin. That’s what UNLV took advantage of early on, as Doolin made the defense stretch.
Eventually Wyoming adjusted. Wood’s defender stooped focusing on the ball handler and stayed closer to Wood. But this allowed Doolin to get into the lane.
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The point guard scored twice off Wood ball screens because the defense stuck to Wood. Doolin created some open threes for Pat McCaw as well when a third defender stepped in to help at the rim.
It was a simple play that took advantage of Wyoming’s ball screen defense and helped Wood to 29 points on 10 of 15 shooting. The Rebels couldn’t rely on it the second half because Wyoming went to a lot of zone defense, and figured out how to keep Wood from getting open when in man.
Wyoming’s brilliant offense
The Cowboys had seven dunks against UNLV, as Wyoming won the battle at the rim of two of the nation’s best. UNLV entered fifth in the NCAA in opponents field goal percentage at the rim; Wyoming was tops in the country in converting at the rim.
Wyoming killed UNLV with a dribble handoff that acted like a pick and roll. It was the main reason Wyoming scored 38 points in the paint.
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Josh Adams comes off the down screen and goes immediately into a dribble handoff with Derek Cooke. As Goodluck Okonoboh cuts off Adams’ drive, Cooke rolls uncontested to the basket for an easy catch and dunk.
They key is the initial down screen, which gets Rashad Vaughn out of position. Vaughn continues to chase Adams over the top of the down screen and the dribble handoff, which means he needs help to keep Adams from getting to the rim. Okonoboh provides that help, but it comes at the cost of Cooke coming wide open.
The Cowboys ran this over and over and over. And on single possessions they would run it as many as five times looking for the right opening or matchup.
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Larry Nance pops rather than rolls on this one, but ultimately he attacks the rim and throws down the monster dunk. Cooke and Nance combined to score 43 points on 25 shots and are shooting 91 and 86 percent at the rim this season, respectively.