Sophomores Jalen Poyser and Kris Clyburn were the stars of UNLV’s exhibition win over Dakota Wesleyan on Tuesday, but a more encouraging trend from the first game may have been the collective performance of the Rebels’ younger, less experienced players.
True freshmen Troy Baxter and Zion Morgan didn’t post the kind of stats that jump out of the box score (five and four points, respectively), but both graded out very well in terms of the raw plus/minus numbers. In the 18 minutes Baxter was on the floor, UNLV outscored Dakota Wesleyan by 15 points; in Morgan’s 11 minutes, the margin was a plus-6 for the Rebels.
And Jovan Mooring, a junior transfer making the jump from a Division II junior college, was especially effective in his first taste of DI action, posting the Rebels’ best plus/minus among players who saw significant minutes. In the 14 minutes and 43 seconds Mooring was on the court, UNLV outscored Dakota Wesleyan, 37-23.
Check out the raw plus/minus numbers:
UNLV Plus/minus vs. Dakota Wesleyan
|Player||Minutes||Score||+/-||+/- per 40|
Of course, there are two obvious, gigantic caveats that go along with these statistics. First, one game is an extremely small sample size (look no further than Djordjije Sljivancanin’s line for an example of how a small sample can be misleading). And second, the competition was not at all representative of the caliber of teams UNLV is going to be playing this year—Dakota Wesleyan was up for the challenge and deserves credit for playing tough, but the Tigers were supremely undersized and under-talented.
With all that being said, there were some intriguing developments that bear monitoring in the second exhibition game against New Mexico Highlands on Friday.
At point guard, Marvin Menzies is trying to figure out whether he wants to put Poyser on the ball as a facilitator or use him off the ball as a scorer. The key to that decision is whether there is another point guard option on the team who can relieve Poyser of those responsibilities and allow him to focus on putting the ball through the hoop. On Tuesday, Mooring stepped forward to make a claim for the job.
According to my calculations, Mooring logged seven minutes and 14 seconds at point guard without Poyser on the court, and UNLV played some of its best basketball during those stints, outscoring Dakota Wesleyan by a healthy 21-13 margin. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean Mooring is ready to play big minutes next to Poyser—when the two shared the court, Poyser still appeared to handle most of the point guard duties—but it gives Menzies another option to consider in the second exhibition game.
Another situation to watch on Friday will be Menzies’ handling of the center position. With Cheickna Dembele still out with a heel injury and Sljivancanin earning less than two minutes on Tuesday, it appears the Rebels are going to roll with undersized Christian Jones as the primary center for now. The 6-foot-7 senior saw a heavy workload for an exhibition game, totaling 34 minutes in the post, but help may be on the way.
Baxter isn’t any bigger than Jones, checking in at 6-foot-8 and a sleight 190 pounds, but he held his own in the pivot against Dakota Wesleyan, totaling five points, four rebounds and two assists. In the 4:04 that Baxter played center without Jones on the floor, UNLV outscored Dakota Wesleyan, 19-13. Again, the level of competition was not predictive in any way, and four minutes is the smallest of samples. Baxter made the most of the situation, however, and may have earned more minutes in the middle against New Mexico Highlands.