Let’s get the basic numbers out of the way first to help create a picture
- The Spartans are 0-and-10 in MWC play after losing to the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 76-67 in Las Vegas this past Wednesday evening.
- Scoring-wise: Ryan Welage was Ryan Welage with 21 points and he also became the second all-time 3-point scorer in Spartan history with his 139th three. Also, Oumar Barry, Keith Fisher and Jaycee Hillsman reached double digit scoring, which is a great effort and good sign of balanced scoring.
- Only 7 turnovers: it was a Spartan season-low, rather than their 18 turnover per game average.
- Rebounding is and was typically in the Spartan’s favor, but against UNLV, they completely lost this battle with only 24 vs. the Rebels 44 rebounds. It especially hurt on the offensive boards where the Rebel’s leading scorer, Brandon McCoy, picked up 15 of his 22 points from offensive rebounds leading to his double-double night.
- Nearly equal shooting percentage and attempts: Both teams were at about 50% shooting with 29 of 61 for the Spartans and 29 of 58 for the Rebels (more on this in a moment)
Salient game points to frame the picture
The first five minutes of the game saw the Spartans very competitive with defensive intensity and scoring to temporarily overwhelm the Rebels. But after a UNLV timeout to break the Spartan’s momentum, things weren’t the same. Except for a few back and forth scoring run deficits on both sides, the Rebel’s lead was only five at halftime.
San Jose’s second half was a series of “jabs and punches”, but never any threatening knockouts that came close to a lead. With about 7 minutes left, the Rebels, Jordan Johnson, Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston, pressed and pushed on defense and transition offense to pull away to cruising altitude for a relatively easy win.
Pictures that emerge
- What should a coach do to slow down or neutralize the physicality of a agile 7 foot, 250-pounder from the offensive boards? A simpleton would say, crash the offensive boards, always try to keep a body on him, attack & dish at him, and box out, of course. It’s always simpler said than done if you don’t have the horses in the stable to compete, BUT the Spartans held him off in their past overtime game?! Film time.
- The Spartans went into a 1-3-1 zone in the latter part of the second half to try and stymie the Rebels, just as they successfully did in the close game against the Rebels back home. BUT Rebel head coach Menzies wasn’t havin’ it this time. He called time out to re-situate his team and did the basics to neutralize the Spartan’s zone D in its natural weak spots; getting shots in the corners, using transition offense and breaking the gaps with the shot clock going down to force fouls (the Rebels are third-ranked in the nation going to the line btw).
- With nearly equal shooting percentage and shot attempts on both sides, yet losing by 9 points, it might be safe to say the Spartans could have schemed and coached their way to a win. But again easier said than done after the fact.
If they kept McCoy from the offensive boards half of the time...if they made more of those missed baskets from close in...if they play better transition defense...if they even let Jalen James use his speed more to breakdown the defense, etc. etc.
In real-time, I’m sure it all can be a blur, but that’s what the staff is there for - to make sense of it all and to discern and disseminate this info to the players to make smarter plays.
The Spartans are back home this Saturday, February 3rd against the New Mexico Lobos at 3pm. They’re ready for a much needed win and the second time around can’t be another blowout, or else here’s what going to happen...(next story:)