Friday, November 9, 2012

A few words on the Dixie St game

By now, you've heard that the game was much closer than it should have been - too close for comfort. And from the standpoint that we are the 18/19th ranked team in the nation (preseason polls) and they are a division II foe who should have no realistic shot of ever beating the Rebels - yes, a close game should be considered a disappointment. But something else is true of basketball - if any one or two of another team's players gets the hot hand from 3 point range, regardless of caliber of team - that game isn't going to be a blowout. Let's talk about some pros and cons

Pros - This overtime game gave quite a few new players a taste of how the T&M faithful rally the troops when the chips are down. Bryce Dejean Jones, Anthony Bennett, Katin Reinhardt, Savon Goodman, and Daquan Cook all stepped on the court last night any played their first semi-real game for the Rebels. From a purely, was I entertained standpoint - I was thoroughly entertained. Watching a blowout is boring, people leave really early because it becomes garbage time. This game had everything, dunks, steals, big leads (nearly 20), last minute heroics, good free throw shooting that mattered, overtime, a comeback or two, and a nearly full court heave that almost went in and would have won the game. How often can a basketball fan say he gets to see all of that in one game? Almost Never.

 Besides the entertainment aspect, being placed in these situations so early in the season should be an excellent bit of experience for the players who took part. Because the game was so difficult against an inferior opponent, it gives the Rebels plenty of film to study, and ideas to get better on the defense and offensive end. The Dixie State Red Storm didn't lie down for this one, they came back after halftime wanting to beat the Rebels, and it was the Rebels that had to work to beat them - not Dixie St failing to execute and beating themselves. That has to count for something. Plus Dixie St is not some cream puff team. From what I watched, they were fundamentally sound, had great 3 point shooting, were athletic, had good defense, and played hard against the Rebels for what  turned out to be 45 minutes of basketball.

Cons - Our Rebels, given the talent and hype should have steamrolled this team, perhaps the way Kentucky steamrolled Transylvania (by nearly 50 points). The biggest concerns I had were three.
1) No defense - While there were flashes of greatness, such as steals and blocks - the way that Dixie came back was the Rebels not properly defending the man with the hot hand, as well as lack of effective interior defense. I recall at one point early in the game Coach Rice ran a lineup that didn't include either Sosa-Lopez or Thomas. The problem is when we had taller, more capable players in the game they did not deny the way they should have. Who should accept responsibility here? Obviously everyone, but the Rebels need to stop letting an opposing player with the hot hand continue to jack up points. Solution to that problem - make him Justin Hawkins' assignment if the size matches up. There is no reason in my mind to employ the old strategy used against Kobe and Jordan that "he'll get his points, its our job to make sure the rest of the team doesn't" meaning the Rebels can't be beat by one player. Also, in large part we didn't see "Runnin'" last night because of the lack of defense. It was a slower game because opportunities weren't created by defensive stops.

2) Jacking too many 3's - I believe the Rebels are cursed to overly think about three point shooting because of our NCAA record. Combine that with the enticing reason a lot of players come to UNLV - Coach Rice gives you the freedom to do the things you want to do on the court. Last night, this translated to three point shooting that was 32 to attempts, 6 makes - awful. Sure, if we make 6 more of the takes, its an 18 point blowout. But we didn't, and its likely because they are not high percentage shots. Three pointers should be the bread and butter of a team that lacks the athletic ability and size to beat the opponents in the post. UNLV is front court talent heavy - we should bully our way in there all day. If  there had only been 15 attempts last night - that would have been much more acceptable.

3) Rebounding - A small part of the Rebels Runnin' strategy is being able to shoot early in the shot clock. This is fine if  the shot is there, but the other part of the equation is having 1-2 players under the opponent's basket ready to rebound your potential miss, and to clean up the garbage. Several times last night we had nobody under the basket, and it led to unchallenged defensive rebounds. There is no reason why UNLV should not be #10 in the nation in rebounding given our elite front court.

There were also plenty of turnovers, but I'll chalk that up to the newness of the season and the makeup of our team. That number should go down the more comfortable our players get playing together.

Observation: In the minutes Bryce Dejean-Jones was in the game, he was wincing considerably when it came to the left hand. I think he's at least 3 weeks away from being 100%, and hope he doesn't feel compelled to come and play and not let it fully heal; best of luck on recovery Bryce.

Conclusion - we're still 0-0, and what the pollsters conclude about it is out of our hands. Monday will be a sell out against another crap opponent, hopefully the Rebels will be the team they're capable of, not the team they've settled on being against Dixie St. You always learn more from you're mistakes than victories - I feel they will have much more of a leg up from this exhibition, than if it had been a 30 point blowout. Go get em Monday!

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff.

    I haven't looked at the stats, and I'd love to review the game on dvr (but wasn't on tv), but there was an amazing number of steals in the first half, and nearly none in the second. I don't know if we stopped playing full court D, or if DS just figured out how to get it down court, but in the 2nd half, they dictated their offensive sets with no problem, and then worked them exactly as pleased... good, sound, fundamental basketball. I wish I had seen an offensive strain for UNLV that I could hang my hat on for future games, but I didn't. It was loosey-goosey - we had very, very little consistency. DR was not happy, and we can be sure that they will have endured a solid earful by the time Monday comes around. How that translates???