Jovan Mooring has established himself as UNLV’s point guard. Marvin Menzies keeps calling ball screen after ball screen for Mooring to generate offense. And against Wyoming on Saturday, UNLV thrived because of it.
Mooring scored a game-high 17 points while dishing out a season-high seven assists in the win. The offense runs through Mooring, as his ability on ball screens gives UNLV an advantage on offense.
Christian Jones finishes this chance in the paint, but Mooring’s vision and creativity gave Jones the space to attack. Mooring had just a moment to hit Jones before the defense recovered, plus he had to find a creative way to get the pass away. So he wrapped a bounce pass around his defender.
Mooring has been excellent in finding the roll man this season, but he showed off the ability to find a cutter as well. UNLV ran a secondary action with the ball screen, as Kris Clyburn set a screen to get Poyser a look from three. When both Cowboys jumped out to defend Poyser, Mooring found Clyburn alone in the paint.
Coming into the game Wyoming ranked as the most efficient defense in the Mountain West when defending the pick and roll. Mooring was so good – Jalen Poyser had success too – Wyoming changed its ball screen defense. They tried to just straight up double team Mooring.
Mooring drew a foul on that play. While that isn’t the best way to attack a double a team, he still made the Cowboys pay for changing their scheme.
Mooring has become a point guard. Marvin Menzies lamented some of Mooring’s shot selection, but it is a carryover from Mooring’s junior college days where he was a gunner on offense.
But a couple poor shots that Mooring still might make are a small price to pay for putting the ball in the hands of the best creator on the UNLV roster.
Christian Jones Notches a Double Double
Christian Jones has seen his lone season at UNLV disrupted by injuries. He played in just one game from November 20 through December 22 while dealing with ankle and foot injuries. But the Rebels got 31 minutes, 15 points and 10 rebounds out of Jones on Saturday.
“We had a much more aggressive Chris Jones today because of his health,” Menzies said. “We looked at the film from the Colorado State game and said, ‘This is not the dude I brought in. Where’s that guy. And what do we have to do to get him to show up against Wyoming.’ So we had some private conversations about what he needed to do.”
What UNLV needs from Jones is a post-up threat. If Jones’ performance is an indication for the rest of Mountain West play, he’ll be able to score on the block.
That’s a post up that comes off a horns set UNLV uses a few times every game. The play itself has multiple options, but here Mooring found Jones, who finished off his second consecutive and one.
Post ups have been a problem for UNLV. Menzies’ offense at New Mexico State was centered around post ups, so naturally UNLV has seen an increase in post up chances. Currently, the Rebels have had the 86th most post ups in the country, but the problem is they are just 313th in efficiency on post ups.
Last year at St. John’s Jones had just over two post up possessions per game. Under Menzies, he’s getting over three post ups per game, and that number will likely rise as Mountain West play continues.
Putting the O in Ofoegbu
Another Rebel to emerge recently is Uche Ofoegbu. The graduate transfer from San Francsico has been listless all season, but he’s started to put together some good offensive performances.
In two Mountain West games Ofoegbu has scored 25 points on 8 of 12 shooting, while going 5 of 8 from three-point range. It’s a massive improvement from his 21 percent shooting and 4.5 point average through the non-conference portion of the schedule.
“I told him, ‘Uche you gotta get more production, or you are going to play less minutes.’ But he was pretty good tonight,” Menzies said.
Ofoegbu has remained in the starting lineup but has seen his minutes decrease from 27.6 in the first five games of the season to 18.6 in the last five.
The offense isn’t going to flow through Ofoegbu, but if he can start hitting threes at a decent rate and finish at the rim (he’s currently shooting 39.3 percent around the rim) he can be a valuable piece for UNLV.
Strategically Allowing Layups
Wyoming had no problem getting to the rim against UNLV’s defense, but it was just a side effect of UNLV’s strategy to eliminate Wyoming’s three-point opportunities.
“We wanted them to take tough twos, and we had committed to protecting the three-point line. Unfortunately some of those twos weren’t very tough. But we had to pick our poison with this team,” Menzies said. “It’s a challenge when you know you have to give up something.”
Wyoming got 23 shots at the rim against UNLV and converted at a high rate by making 19 of them. But that was the tradeoff of UNLV trying prevent three-pointers.
Entering the game 49 percent of Wyoming’s shots were threes. Plus the Cowboys can put four and five shooters on the floor to make help-side defense a dangerous game.
So UNLV decided to stick on the three-point line and send less help defense. That’s why Wyoming got so many layups. But it is also why Wyoming attempted just 26 three-pointers and made just five.
Not that Menzies wanted to give up layups, but he elected to not let Wyoming beat him from beyond the arc. The strategy paid off. It probably isn’t a long-term solution, but it helped get UNLV a conference win.
Dwayne Morgan Out for the Year?
Dwayne Morgan’s season may be over. The junior missed the offseason and the first game of the year after summer hip surgery. That hip is bothering him again.
Menzies has not sounded optimistic that he’ll see Morgan return to the floor this season. Now he’s just waiting to hear from doctors about Morgan’s status for the rest of this season.
If Morgan is deemed to have a season-ending injury, he’ll be eligible for a medical redshirt. To receive a medical redshirt, a player must appear in less than 30 percent of the team’s games and cannot appear in the second half of the season. Morgan has played in eight of UNLV’s 31 scheduled games. The second half of the season starts this week with the Rebels 16th game coming against Boise State.
This may turn out to be a positive for UNLV and Marvin Menzies. A medical redshirt would mean Morgan could be a Rebel in Menzies third year as head coach. After a couple of years at the helm, Menzies should have better product on the floor, one that could contend in the Mountain West.
Morgan would be valuable as a fifth-year senior on a team with post-season expectations.
Rebels Cashing in at the Free Throw Line
In the final 32 seconds UNLV converted all eight of its free throw attempts. For the game, the Rebels nailed 80 percent (24/30) of their free throws.
It is a facet of the game UNLV fans have moaned about for years, and recently with good reason. The last three years UNLV was below the national average in free throw shooting, including the 2013-14 season where the Rebels ranked 317th in free throw shooting.
But halfway through Menzies first season, the Rebels are just above the national average at the free throw line of 67.7 percent.
The best shooters on this year’s team?
- Jalen Poyser: 56 of 68 (85.3 percent)
- Tyrell Green: 26 of 33 (78.8 percent)
- Uche Ofoegbu: 26 of 34 (76.5 percent)
- Kris Clyburn: 31 of 41 (75.6 percent)
- Jovan Mooring: 50 of 68 (73.5 percent)
- Christian Jones: 12 of 21 (57.1 percent)
- Dwayne Morgan: 18 of 32 (56.3 percent)
- Troy Baxter: 10 of 20 (50 percent)
- Cheickna Dembele: 6 of 17 (35.3 percent)
Broncos Up Next
UNLV gets a second consecutive home game on Wednesday when Boise State comes to Vegas. The Broncos are coming off a buzzer-beating win over Colorado State.
Here is Chandler Hutchison's game-winner. What a game pic.twitter.com/FNNTCLJwxb
— Michael Katz (@MichaelLKatz) January 1, 2017
The win moved Boise State to 2-0 in the Mountain West, as the Broncos could make a run at the wide-open race for the conference title.
One advantage for UNLV could be getting to the line. The Rebels are 65th in the nation in free throw rate. Led by Jovan Mooring’s head snapping, UNLV gets to the free throw line a lot. And Boise State fouls a lot; the Broncos are committing the 78th most fouls per game.
Ken Pom projects Boise State to win 75-73. The game starts at 8:00 pm on Wednesday from the Thomas & Mack and can be seen on CBS Sports Network.