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Bern’s-Eye View: What’s happening when nothing’s happening for UNLV?

Offensive droughts have become an issue for the Rebels, who need to avoid that today in 6:30 p.m. game at No. 13 Arizona


L.E. Baskow

UNLV head coach Dave Rice argues a could call versus Arizona State at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday, December 16, 2015.

The Rebel Room

Pac-12 Week

The Rebels wrap up a key month of their schedule this week with a home game against Arizona State and a trip to No. 13 Arizona. Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer and reporters Case Keefer and Taylor Bern get into the return of former Rebel Savon Goodman and what to expect this week against two Pac-12 foes.

Maybe the sky is falling or perhaps it’s just an errant basketball bouncing off your head from one of UNLV’s many long offensive droughts. Only time will tell this season, but too much time has passed to be anything but concerned by UNLV’s offensive struggles, many of which can be traced to defense.

The Rebels (8-3) are coming off their worst loss of the season and they have no time to sulk with No. 13 Arizona (10-1) waiting in the McKale Center. The game is scheduled to tip off at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

UNLV can ill-afford another long drought if it hopes to bounce back with a resume-building victory and what would easily be the best victory of the season. I’m not someone who thinks the Rebels are suddenly out of the at-large picture for the NCAA Tournament — Oregon and Indiana’s remaining performances will have a lot to say — but the concerns are obvious, and one we haven't talked much about is that UNLV isn't any good out of timeouts or out of bounds plays, which are generally correlated to coaching.

The bottom line is the Rebels' success comes down to transition. UNLV is an excellent transition team, scoring 1.202 points per possession according to Synergy Sports, but the Rebels get into transition less than 19 percent of the time. In half-court situations UNLV scores 0.816 points per possession.

They’ve been trapping in the backcourt less and less as the season has gone on, which lessens one obvious way to create more turnovers, possessions or pace, and a negative side effect has been fewer fast-break opportunities. If they continue on this trend, UNLV can’t survive in the half court, so whether it’s trapping or something else the Rebels have to create opportunities to really push the ball.

Another thing that pops out is that it hasn’t been a plethora of turnovers or offensive rebounds allowed leading to the big runs. Those are factors, but they seem to be bigger problems for the games overall and not specifically the stretches when leads disappear.

That’s mostly what we’re looking at here. Sure, basketball is a game of runs, but UNLV is finding itself on the wrong side of too many of those these days.

Here’s a look at what’s going on when UNLV’s offense disappears, and not surprisingly it’s usually related to the Rebels failing to run:

    • Arizona State

      Situation: Over 6:24 in the second half, UNLV gave up an 11-0 run as its lead shrunk from 14 to three. It would get worse from there as the Rebels never bounced back and lost by 10.

      Transition possessions: 0

      FGs: 0-7

      3FGs: 0-3

      FTs: 0-0

      Shots in the paint: 3

      Turnovers: 4

      Turnovers created: 0

      Offensive rebounds allowed: 5

      Play out of a timeout...

      13:48 remaining, UNLV leads 45-41

      • Four passes: Two around perimeter, one into Ben Carter in short corner and then back out to point guard Jalen Poyser, who drives into the lane and misses a runner. ASU loses ball out of bounds; Tyrell Green misses a quick 3-point attempt on the inbound and Carter misses a putback attempt.

    • UC Riverside

      Situation: Over 7:12 in the second half, UC Riverside went on a 14-1 run that gave the Highlanders a smidge of life before Pat McCaw helped UNLV pull away.

      Transition possessions: 1

      FGs: 0-7

      3FGs: 0-2

      FTs: 1-2

      Shots in the paint: 3

      Turnovers: 3

      Turnovers created: 3

      Offensive rebounds allowed: 0

      Play out of a timeout...

      13:33 remaining (5 seconds on shot clock), UNLV leads 51-41

      Jordan Cornish inbounds from baseline to Derrick Jones Jr. in near corner. Jones makes a touch pass back to Cornish, who misses a quick spot-up, guarded 3-point attempt.

    • Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet drives to the basket against UNLV guard Jordan Cornish during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, in Wichita, Kan.

      Wichita State

      Situation: Over 7:54 in the first half, Wichita State used a 14-2 run to help take a big lead at home. UNLV would battle back and hang in until the end despite some poor offense all night.

      Transition possessions: 0

      FGs: 1-6

      3FGs: 0-1

      FTs: 0-2

      Shots in the paint: 4

      Turnovers: 4

      Turnovers created: 2

      Offensive rebounds allowed: 2

      Plays out of timeout...

      9:50 remaining, UNLV trails 15-6

      • Two passes around the perimeter, and from the top of the key Carter feeds Ike Nwamu on a back cut to the basket. Nwamu draws a foul and misses both free throws.

      7:23 remaining, UNLV down 22-8

      • No passes. McCaw takes inbounds pass, drives to the right in isolation and misses running layup.

    • Oregon

      Situation: Over 6:57 in the second half, UNLV didn’t make a field goal and gave up a 19-4 run that allowed Oregon back in the game. The Rebels would pull away for an 11-point victory.

      Transition possessions: 0

      FGs: 0-8

      3FGs: 0-2

      FTs: 4-5

      Shots in the paint: 5

      Turnovers: 2

      Turnovers created: 3

      Offensive rebounds allowed: 2

      Play out of a timeout...

      13:59 remaining, UNLV leads 55-42

      • McCaw passes back and forth with Nwamu on the right wing and Stephen Zimmerman Jr. in the left elbow extended area before throwing up a step-back 3-pointer as the shot clock expires. The ball never enters the paint.

    • UCLA guard Bryce Alford (20) drives through UNLV's Jerome Seagears (2), Patrick McCaw (22) and Ben Carter (13) in the second half of a basketball game in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Lahaina, Hawaii. UCLA won 77-75.


      Situation: Over 8 minutes in the first half, UNLV struggled against UCLA’s 3-2 zone and watched its nine-point lead turn into a one-point deficit.

      Transition possessions: 3

      FGs: 2-10

      3FGs: 0-5


      Shots in the paint: 5

      Turnovers: 6

      Turnovers created: 3

      Offensive rebounds allowed: 3

      Play out of a timeout...

      9:15 remaining, UNLV leads 20-19

      • Two back and forth passes out top, then a lob entry pass from McCaw to a well-guarded Zimmerman that is knocked out of bounds. Cornish’s inbound is stolen by UCLA, then quickly stolen back by Jones, who misses a transition layup attempt.

      Situation: Over 5:17 in the second half, UNLV went scoreless as UCLA pulled back from behind for a 77-75 victory.

      Transition possessions: 0

      FGs: 0-5

      3FGs: 0-3

      FTs: 0-1

      Shots in the paint: 2

      Turnovers: 2

      Turnovers created: 3

      Offensive rebounds allowed: 0

      Plays out of a timeout...

      5:59 remaining, UNLV leads 65-64

      • Rice calls a timeout right after Jerome Seagears’ go-ahead 3-pointer. Carter and McCaw trap in the backcourt, and in transition Jonah Bolden’s pass to Prince Ali bounces away and the Rebels grab the turnover.

      1:47 remaining, UNLV trails 67-65

      • Three passes back and forth between Seagears and McCaw, then McCaw drives in for a guarded floater that rims out. The ball never really enters the paint.

    Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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