After a 49-point offensive performance in a loss to Colorado State on Saturday, UNLV now ranks dead last in the Mountain West in offensive efficiency.
It is largely due to an inability to make shots.
“We just missed shots,” Marvin Menzies said. “I thought we had pretty good looks. If you look at the film you’ll see, we had a lot of wide open shots.”
And UNLV definitely had uncontested jumpers not fall like this corner three from Uche Ofoegbu.
Jovan Mooring blows past his man and drives baseline. The Colorado State defense collapses in the paint to try and prevent a layup. That leaves Ofoegbu all alone in the corner. Mooring does everything right and delivers a pass to get this look.
That’s a shot that should go in. But more often than not, it doesn’t for UNLV. In unguarded catch-and-shoot scenarios, UNLV’s effective field goal percentage ranks 271st in the country, per Synergy Sports.
The UNLV offense produces open looks, but the Rebels don’t make them.
“That’s my job to get them good looking shots,” Menzies said. “But the other part of my job is to give them the confidence and belief that they are going to go in.”
Menzies is succeeding in the first aspect. In conference play, UNLV ranks last in both two-point field goal percentage (39.3 percent) and three-point field goal percentage (29.2 percent).
The poor two-point percentage is largely due to missed layups, but the missed threes comes from poor shooting, as the best two shooters on the team have gone into serious droughts.
Jalen Poyser lost his spot in the starting lineup largely due to his sudden shooting struggles. Poyser was shooting 38 percent from three and looked like the star of the team prior to Mountain West play. But since, he’s plummeted down to 20 percent from deep in conference games.
After hitting 49 percent of his threes in non-conference play, Tyrell Green has hit just 21 percent of his shots from beyond the arc in Mountain West games. Green may be coming back as an efficient shooter, as he has made five of 12 threes in the last two games. But a nine-game lull from Green coupled with Poyser’s disappearance has spelled disaster for UNLV’s offense.
Bottom of the Mountain
The offensive disaster has dropped UNLV into sole possession of last place in the Mountain West at 3-8. The Mountain West is bunched up, so the Rebels sit just two games out of seventh place. A mini winning streak could help the Rebels climb a few spots. The problem is that UNLV is only favored to win one more game this season.
Per Ken Pom, the Rebels have a 58 percent chance to beat San Jose State on February 11. But the other six games will see the Rebels as underdogs.
Aside from the home date with the Spartans–who already beat UNLV this season–the winnable games left for UNLV are at Air Force (33 percent chance) and a home matchup with Utah State (49 percent chance).
The good news for UNLV is that three of the losses in the current four game losing streak came by single digits. No team in the Mountain West is good enough to walk through UNLV while playing a poor game. The Rebels could catch anyone on an off night and get a win. But that would have to be coupled with a good shooting performance from UNLV.
Bottom of the Program
At 10-14 the 2016-17 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels have the second worst winning percentage in program history.
If UNLV wins one more game as projected, the Rebels would enter the Mountain West tournament with the worst winning percentage in UNLV history, dropping below the 1995-96 Bill Bayno led Rebels that went 10-16.
To avoid having the worst record, UNLV will need to win three more regular season games or go on a run in the Mountain West Tournament.
Before this season, UNLV only had three seasons with a losing record, while Dave Rice’s worst year was an 18-15 mark.
Troy Baxter injury
Troy Baxter has missed back-to-back games with a bone bruise in his left foot. According to Marvin Menzies, Baxter should be good to go for the Rebels next game on Wednesday.
But prior to the injury, Baxter’s playing time had seen a serious decline. The freshman did not play against San Diego State or San Jose State, while only playing a total of five minutes in games against New Mexico and Wyoming.
This comes after playing in every game through December and averaging 17 minutes per game. In January and February, Baxter has played just 10 minutes per game, while he has missed four games.
On offense Baxter relies on inefficient mid-range jumpers too often, as 41 percent of his shots come from that distance. He has been one of the few Rebels to convert at a decent rate around the rim, but just 30 percent of his shots come at the rim.
If Baxter can develop a better of sense of where to shoot, he can become an offensive piece given his athleticism.
Meeting an old friend
The Rebels have not faced off with in-state rival Nevada yet this season, but on Wednesday Marvin Menzies will take on the coach he replaced. Former UNLV player and coach Dave Rice is an assistant on Eric Musselman’s staff at Nevada.
Rice was fired from UNLV mid-way through last season after an 0-3 start to conference play. Now he’s assisting one of the top teams in the Mountain West, as Nevada sits at 7-3, just a half game out of first place.
UNLV fans will get a chance to boo or show their appreciation for Dave Rice on February 25 when the Wolf Pack makes the return trip to Vegas.