No single player is going to be able to replace Rashad Vaughn, UNLV’s leading scorer who is out indefinitely and could miss the rest of the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Instead, before Thursday’s practice, coach Dave Rice stressed the team-wide effort that will have to go into replicating Vaughn’s production.
“It’s a big loss for us,” Rice said. “Rashad has been playing extremely well. He’s rebounding the ball, he’s shooting 42percent from 3 in conference play, he’s been a very reliable scorer for us. But we’re all part of a team, and other guys are going to have an opportunity to step up now and I’m sure that they will.”
The most obvious void that will need to be filled is Vaughn’s scoring. He’s the Rebels’ leading scorer at 17.8 points per game, and because he’s a threat off the dribble and beyond the arc, his absence will have a huge impact on UNLV’s offense. Sophomore forward Chris Wood (15.0 points per game) is the clear candidate to assume the No. 1 scorer role, and Rice confirmed as much on Thursday. And freshman guard Patrick McCaw’s emergence as a capable double-digit scorer (11.9 points, 47.8 FG% over past eight games) means he’ll probably see a spike in his usage as well.
Beyond that, the problem is that the Rebels don’t currently have a reliable third scorer. Seniors Cody Doolin and Jelan Kendrick aren’t volume shooters (6.5 and 5.7 points per game, respectively), and first-year forwards Dwayne Morgan and Goodluck Okonoboh haven’t been efficient enough (69.9, 80.3 points per 100 possessions, respectively).
That leaves freshman swingman Jordan Cornish as the best bet to shoulder an additional scoring load. Cornish has been deadly from 3-point range (22-of-44) in limited minutes, and he’s posting 105.4 points per 100 possessions, the second-best mark on the team behind only Dantley Walker (123.5). It’s hard to say whether he can maintain that efficiency in an expanded role, but he looks like the best fit. Position also factors into the equation—Cornish can slide into Vaughn’s spot in the rotation and allow Rice to continue deploying Kendrick and Morgan off the bench.
An underrated aspect of Vaughn’s game has been his rebounding ability. He was averaging 4.8 rebounds per game and pulling down 13.2 percent of all available defensive rebounds—a mark bettered only by Chris Wood (21.5 percent). Kendrick (3.5 per game) can replace some of Vaughn’s rebounding, but for a team that has struggled to compete on the glass, this could be an under-the-radar crisis.
That’s why Rice emphasized the need for contributions from the entire team. No one player can give UNLV all of Vaughn’s shooting ability, or his rebounding, or his ball-handling ability, or his late-clock offense. But the Rebels are going to have to patch it together for the rest of the regular season, one way or another.
“Certainly,” Rice said, “we’re going to need everybody.”
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