UNLV ranks 343rd in the nation in finishing at the rim. Only 50.4 percent of shots classified as layups, dunks or tip-ins have gone in for UNLV. There are only eight teams in the country worse in close than the Rebels.
The blown shots have cost UNLV victories.
Against San Jose State—a game UNLV led for over 25 minutes—the Rebels made 8 of 23 shots at the rim. That’s 34.7 percent on what’s supposed to be the easiest shot in basketball. UNLV lost to the Spartans by four points.
In the loss to Wyoming on Wednesday, the Rebels converted just 8 of 18 layups. And lost by a single point.
The One’s That Hurt the Most
That’s two separate fast break opportunities with two chances to score at the rim. Neither possession resulted in points. And UNLV lost by a single point.
The misses are almost inexplicable, but Marvin Menzies tried to explain it after the loss on Saturday.
“I can’t say I’ve experienced this before, so got to keep trying to figure this one out. I would say (lack of) confidence, but I think that’s more shooting. Concentration is the first thing I can think of. It’s having a toughness about you where, ‘I don’t care who’s around, I’m going to go finish it.’ How about trying to dunk some of them rather than try a feathery layup?”
But even that hasn’t worked.
That’s a fast break dunk attempt that turns into a point for the opponent because Uche Ofoegbu was given a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
The only Rebels converting at an above average rate right now are Tyrell Green, Christian Jones and Zion Morgan, who have all made over 60 percent of their shots at the rim. Everyone else has been atrocious.
Jovan Mooring is shooting a higher percentage from three-point range than he is at the rim.
Poyser to the Bench, Morgan Gets a Start
Saturday saw a change in the lineup for Marvin Menzies. For the first time all season Jalen Poyser did not start for UNLV.
The presumed star of this year’s team has struggled mightily in Mountain West play. He’s shooting just 26.4 percent from the floor and has hit 8 of 36 threes in conference play.
The lack of production led to Poyser’s benching, which was first seen on Wednesday against Wyoming when Zion Morgan started the second half in place of Poyser.
Morgan got the nod again against San Jose State and brought with him some defensive intensity that can result in steals or fouls, as Morgan illustrated both in the span of 10 seconds.
Morgan’s 2.3 steals per 40 minutes rank fourth in the Mountain West. He adds something no other Rebel has on the defensive end.
While his offensive game is a work in progress, he only has to be better than Poyser’s 26.4 percent shooting to deserve a larger share of minutes.
Tony Sanchez Contract Extension
UNLV has given Tony Sanchez a contract extension through the 2021 season, but have not released any other details of the contract.
Through two seasons Sanchez is 7-17 with a three-win season in 2015 followed by four victories in 2016. Off the field Sanchez has been more impressive, as UNLV has raised $17 million for a $26 million football facility.
Sanchez’s original deal was through the 2018 season and paid him $500,000 a season. Under that deal if UNLV were to fire Sanchez, he would be owed $250,000 for each season left on his contract.
This extension comes with UNLV’s athletic director position in flux. Tina Kunzer-Muprhy is leaving the post at the end of June. With this extension the next athletic director won’t be able to make changes at the coaching level.
That may turn out to be a positive if Sanchez gets UNLV into bowl games. But if he doesn’t, UNLV has made the next athletic director’s job tougher.
Under the original deal, UNLV would be able to part ways with Sanchez after the 2017 season while paying him $250,000 in buyout money. Now a change at the head coach spot could cost UNLV $1 million.
The extension does make it likely that Sanchez will have multiple years to impress the new athletic director, which should give UNLV stability in the football program if Sanchez can get he Rebels winning.