Monday, November 26, 2012

Tournament aftermath: Fine tune the machine

In the games this past weekend, we saw examples of the Runnin' Rebels not working to their potential because of turnovers, excessive three point attempts (against Oregon), inability to break the full court trap (against Oregon) but most consistently throughout the four games thus far and one exhibition game - lack of an offense and defense on the interior.

The unfortunate aftermath of not beating Oregon, and then not hammering Iowa State is that UNLV will likely fall to the bottom of the Top 25, if not out entirely. Not sugarcoating anything, we deserve as much because we are not playing Runnin' Rebels basketball - not consistently anyhow.

In the 83-79 defeat against Oregon, the Rebels were behind the ball a good portion of the game, having just tied it with about a minute to go. Taking nothing away from Oregon, who is a very good basketball team - they shot better, rebounded the ball well, and turned the ball over less. The Rebels took 30 attempts at the three, and only hit 8 (26%), whereas Oregon attempted only 19 and hit only 3 (15%). The difference maker is that Oregon decided not to shoot their way out of their slump from three, and went inside and hit 9 more 2 pointers than the Rebels (18 points there). The Rebels did maintain their remarkable free throw shooting 92%. 18 turnovers really accentuated the problems, and led to the loss.

In the 82-70 win over Iowa State, the Rebels executed basically the same as they did against Oregon, minus the excessive 3 point attempts. In only 10 attempts, the rebels made 4 (40%). Turnovers remained high (but the least of any regular season game thus far) at 16.

In both games, the opponent regularly sliced through the Rebels interior defense and scored without problem. The Rebels though rarely had the opportunity to do the same, either drawing the foul or being denied entirely. In the Iowa State game, a ray of hope shined as a few times a dump off play under the basket was ran successfully, one of those times to Savon Goodman.

Although the past few seasons had the Rebels getting nearing 10 games into the season and staying perfect, the verdict on those teams is that we peaked early, and burned down the stretch. While it would be nice to have the opposite effect and really gel and turn it on come tournament time, it just doesn't feel right with the hype surrounding the team. The futher we get into March, the more people will forget about setbacks like the Oregon game. Or, we can learn a valuable lesson from this weekend.

Interior offense - With the front court that the Rebels have, as well as the ultra talented athletic guards, there is no reason why the Rebels shouldn't slice to the basket a good 30 times a game, as opposed to jacking the deep three 30 times a game. Players like Anthony Bennett will be expected to have a post game at the next level, so why not build that into the repitoire now? Not shouldering any of this on Anthony (because he's been amazing) but something needs to be worked out.

Interior defense - protecting the paint, boxing out, delivering a hard foul inside when needed - that's a cure. Provided the offense we're running is adequate to beat every opponent till we get to UNC, a major focus needs to be held on denying easy baskets. Granted, nobody wants the Rebels to have tired legs when the end of the season comes, but a little basic interior defense shouldn't burn much energy, and would have had us playing Cincinnati.

Still support - the fan turnout for the Oregon game was fantastic, the Iowa St game, likely half that. Most identifiable, the student section was very much empty - and their tickets are FREE! Still support, there is only so much basketball in a season, come to a home game if you can, even if we occasionally lose a game!

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