Marvin Menzies has stressed it since he came to UNLV. The Rebels needed to be great in winning time – the final minutes of a close game.
But after a quarterfinal exit in the Mountain West Tournament, it is clear Menzies has to improve in winning time.
In the first round matchup with Air Force, UNLV had the ball in a tie game with the shot clock off. Jovan Mooring ended up missing a deep three and the game went to overtime.
UNLV had a timeout to use, if Menzies had wanted to draw something up. The play they got looks like a mess. And when asked about it after the game, Menzies sounded the same.
“We had a call on the previous timeouts, so we wanted to just come down and run the play,” he said. “Every time we called a timeout they were changing the defense, they were putting a 1-3-1 on us. Dave (Pilipovich) is such a good coach, there was a little bit of a chess match there. People sit back and say, ‘Oh, you should have called a timeout and set this up.’ Okay, no, not against Dave. You needed to make sure that we got the play executed the right way. We didn’t do that.
“At the end of the day maybe I should have called a timeout, but that was the logic for not calling it, No. 1. No. 2, we had called the play. They started to run it too early. And so then we tried to get them to slow down and run it again a little bit later. And then it got messed up because the timing was off on the play. So that was the one that JoJo took the long three. That was on me. We probably should have — I don’t know that we informed them when to start the play, does that make sense? And I think there was — like they’re right in front of our bench, we’re like, Not yet, wait until 12, and they started already. Then it was just a debacle that we can learn from. So that was it.”
It was a long, rambling answer that mirrored how UNLV looked on the floor. But jump back to early part of Menzies’ quote where he praises Air Force’s head coach Dave Pilipovich. Menzies effectively admitted Pilipovich would have outcoached him had he taken a timeout to set up a play.
That may be an indictment on the players as well. Menzies was aware Air Force might change the defense during a timeout, so he could have drawn up multiple plays that had the team ready for different defenses. But if he doesn’t have faith in his guys to handle that much information, then Menzies may have made the correct move.
UNLV went on to win in overtime to set up a rematch with top seed Nevada. But all it did was reinforce the Rebels’ struggles in winning time.
UNLV trailed by three with under 30 seconds to go. They had a chance to tie the game and this is the look they got.
Again, another mess. But this time UNLV didn’t have a timeout. The reason? Menzies used UNLV’s last timeout with 9:26 to left in the game.
“I called that timeout with like nine minutes or eight minutes or whatever it was left in the game. Maybe not that much but it was kind of late. But it was my last one. And I messed up. I looked at the scoreboard, my own scoreboard, and I saw a 2. And I think it was team fouls or something, I don’t know what it was. Then after I took it the assistant said, ‘That was our last one.’ What do you mean that was our last one? So I had a little slip there. I think I could have scripted that better at the end,” Menzies said.
It is a seemingly innocent mistake. Misreading the scoreboard. But it cost UNLV in the biggest moment of the season.
UNLV had 10 opportunities to tie or win a game in the final 30 seconds of regulation or overtime. The Rebels came through just twice on the season, both of which were aided by foul calls.
Mbacke Diong had to bail out UNLV with a made free throw at San Jose State in the dying seconds. The reason Diong was in the game, UNLV screwed up a substitution. Brandon McCoy was supposed to check in, but he didn’t get to the scorer’s table in time. So it was a back-up center saving UNLV.
In these final shot moments, UNLV was 0 of 12 from the floor. They did not convert one final shot all season.
Final Shot Situations
- Jovan Mooring 0 of 5
- Jordan Johnson 0 of 3
- Brandon McCoy 0 of 2
- Shakur Juiston 0 of 1
- Kris Clyburn 0 of 1
Menzies is not at fault for all of his players missing all of their crunch time shots. But Menzies elected to take a timeout in just 2 of the 10 scenarios.
For the season on plays after timeouts, UNLV was extremely efficient. The Rebels shot 54 percent from the field and posted the 45th best points per possession after timeouts.
Marvin Menzies had an efficient team after they came out of timeouts.
In final shot situations, you aren’t likely to get anything easy in the paint. But UNLV may have been better served setting up plays in a huddle rather than on the fly.
One season of late game miscues doesn’t make Menzies a bad end-of-game coach. UNLV could easily convert on 8 of 10 scenarios next year.
But more often than not, the Rebels looked lost, from the players on the court to the coaches on the sideline.