After UNLV tied the game, Nevada had a chance to win it on the final possession. They did just that with a Marqueze Coleman jumper off a high ball screen.
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Dave Rice wasn’t happy with his team’s defense on the final play that led to the 64-62 defeat.
"Normally we switch things at the end, but we were afraid of an offensive rebound. So we wanted to go over the screen and we wanted to be up on what we call a level on the ball screen. So we made two defensive mistakes on that play," Rice said.
First off, the way Nevada crushed UNLV on the offensive glass causing Rice to alter his typical defensive strategy. The Wolf Pack nearly got half of their own misses with 22 offensive rebounds compared to 23 defensive rebounds for UNLV.
AJ West – the nation’s leader in offensive rebounding percentage – had 10 offensive boards all by himself and is on the block being defended by Goodluck Okonoboh. But what Rice was worried about was the screener getting a free run to the rim for an offensive rebound.
Typically UNLV switches all screens among guards the entire game. In final shot situations, many teams just switch every screen, but Rice elected not to do that out of fear of a putback opportunity.
Plus Nevada was likely hoping for an offensive rebound, as Coleman fries that shot up with seven seconds left. That gave UNLV a chance to tie or win the game, but Rashad Vaughn’s desperation three was off the mark.
Now to the two defensive mistakes Rice highlighted. First, he wanted Pat McCaw – who was defending Coleman – to go over the screen. UNLV’s best defender winds up going under instead.
McCaw is by far the best on-ball defender for the Rebels, but his footwork isn’t good on this possession. It appears as though McCaw wasn’t aware a screen was coming, or he had a momentary lapse in how he was supposed to defend the screen.
The other mistake, "a level on the ball screen" is a little more difficult to figure out. Though I’m not positive, I believe that is referring to Chris Wood’s positioning as Coleman comes around the screen.
Rice wanted Wood to be a step or two higher. That would have prevented Coleman from getting off a clean look.
So neither player defending the ball screen did what Rice wanted them to do. However, Nevada didn’t get a high-quality shot. Coleman was 1 of 8 from the field before that jumper. Coleman is shooting 24 percent on threes, which is essentially what this was since Coleman’s foot was on the three-point line.
Even worse, Coleman is scoring just .63 points per possession coming off ball screens, per Synergy Sports. Had you told Rice that Coleman would be shooting the potential game-winning shot from about 19 feet, he’d probably take it every time.
Nevada had to be hoping for an offensive board.