Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Ray Brewer, Mike Grimala and Case Keefer dip in both football and basketball off of UNLV's best week of the year. The Rebels are rolling in basketball going into a potentially massive showdown with Cincinnati, and enlivened by upsetting UNR to win back the Fremont Cannon in football.
As UNLV’s fifth-year senior point guard, Noah Robotham has been tasked with a lot of responsibilities. He is being counted on to provide leadership, experience, defense and ball movement, all while serving as a proverbial “coach on the floor.”
The most important part of his job description, however, is outside shooting, and through six games Robotham has not delivered as expected.
After shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range during his three years at Akron, Robotham has made just eight of his first 35 long-range attempts for the Rebels this season, which works out to a paltry 22.9 percent. In UNLV’s 72-64 loss to Valparaiso on Wednesday, he attempted six 3-pointers and connected just once, in the final minutes after the game had been decided.
A player without 94 games of college experience might let that kind of slump affect him negatively, but Robotham has enough perspective to believe his percentages will be in line with his career norms by the end of the season.
“I believe that numbers just fluctuate over time,” Robotham said. “Obviously I wish that I’d be shooting the ball a lot better, but my confidence hasn’t wavered at all.
“I know people look at box scores, and it’s fine. My confidence, whether I go 0-for-30 or 30-for-30, it remains the same because I put in the work.”
Robotham’s struggles have been surprising, as his shooting touch had the consistency of a metronome during his stint at Akron. In 2016-17 (his last year there before transferring to UNLV), he hit 39.0 percent of his 3-pointers, and his jump shot was dependable in every imaginable circumstance. He shot 44.3 percent on spot-up jumpers, 42.2 percent on jumpers off the dribble, 38.5 percent on unguarded jumpers, 42.6 percent on guarded jumpers, and 41.1 percent from 3-point range in halfcourt possessions.
That kind of accuracy would make him invaluable to this UNLV team, which is starved for outside shooting. Aside from Robotham, the rest of the squad has made 23-of-78 from beyond the arc (29.5 percent).
Head coach Marvin Menzies shares Robotham’s confidence that the shots will eventually start falling.
“I think a lot of people look at Noah’s shooting percentage right now and some people have expressed concern,” Menzies said. “I’m not concerned at all.”
Robotham has slumped before. As a freshman at Akron in 2014-15, he went through a six-game stretch where he made just 6-of-33 from the arc (18.2 percent). He bounced back to make 14-of-26 over next six games (53.8 percent). As a junior in 2016-17, he suffered a 7-of-26 slump over eight games (26.9 percent), then nailed 13-of-29 over the next eight contests (44.8 percent).
Ever the cerebral type, Robotham said he knows opposing teams have him included in their scouting reports as a shooter, and that they have to respect his stroke even during extended slumps. So until he gets dialed in, Robotham said he will continue shooting in order to space the floor for his teammates and keep the offense running.
“Just putting that pressure on the top of the key allows the guys in the middle of the paint to get the ball,” Robotham said. “If we play a guy who is 0-for-30, we’re still going to guard him because it’s proven the coach respects that he can shoot those 3’s. Guys that shoot one or two, you kind of lay off. But guys who are getting those attempts up, you have to guard honestly.”