The last two games have seen UNLV force feed the ball inside to Brandon McCoy with mixed results.
Against Fresno State, McCoy put up 13 points, but he shot just 6 of 15 from the floor. He only made two trips to the free throw line, as Terrell Carter proved to be an immovable defender.
But against San Diego State, McCoy feasted inside against Malik Pope and Jalen McDaniels. The freshman snapped back into form with 21 points on 9 of 12 shooting and went to the free throw line eight times.
From dominanted to dominant, UNLV has ridden McCoy the last two games. And as the Rebels make a push for a top five seed in the Mountain West tournament, the offense seems destined to go through McCoy.
UNLV simply doesn’t shoot threes. The Rebels attempt just 16.2 threes per game, second fewest in the Mountain West and ranks among the top 20 three-point shy teams in the country.
Marvin Menzies made a change to the starting lineup that will see UNLV shoot even less threes. Tervell Beck got the nod over Kris Clyburn; Beck has attempted 11 threes on the season, Clyburn has shot 69.
While college basketball trends to more three pointers, UNLV is trying to win with points in the paint.
By using Beck over Clyburn, Menzies is going all in on size. For the majority of the season Beck has played power forward behind Shakur Juiston. Now he is playing at small forward giving UNLV just two legitimate three point threats in the starting lineup.
While McCoy and Juiston (who also put up 21 points) overpowered San Diego State, the Rebels saw some clear deficiencies to the new starting lineup.
The Aztecs spent most of the game disregarding Beck on the three-point line. Instead, San Diego State was ready to send a double team at McCoy.
UNLV ran a horns set with the intention of getting McCoy post touches in the paint. McCoy ultimately gets fouled trying to score through the double team, but the Rebels spacing is not respected.
As Jordan Johnson, Jovan Mooring and McCoy execute the play, Juiston and Beck are set up in the corners to provide spacing.
Along with Beck’s 11 three point attempts, Juiston has taken just one. There is no reason for opponents to defend those two players at the three-point line.
Menzies did throw in a wrinkle that San Diego State never figured out. Juiston would cut down the baseline behind the double team. It led to McCOy making some of his best passes of the season.
Even on this play Beck is aimlessly wandering towards the basket and almost walks his defender down to the wide open Juiston.
But the lack of three point shooting extends beyond the starting lineup. Amauri Hardy, who has taken more threes than twos, elected not to shoot a wide-open three.
Hardy has to take that three. Instead he drove into seven bodies clogging the paint. That is not a recipe for success. UNLV got off the hook because three Aztecs went for the shot block, leaving Mbacke Diong free to get an offensive rebound.
Despite the lack of three-point shooting, UNLV’s offense has been efficient this season ranking 56th in Ken Pom efficiency. But since conference play has started, UNLV is just 6th best in the Mountain West in offensive efficiency.
In conference games, the Rebels are tied with Wyoming for the worst three-point percentage. So it may be in Menzies best interest to play big and avoid the three.
If that’s the plan, UNLV will be relying on McCoy and Juiston to be incredibly efficient like they were against San Diego State.