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Analysis: UNLV basketball making it work with two point guards

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Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels guard Amauri Hardy (3) passes the ball by Wyoming Cowboys forward Hunter Thompson (10) during a game at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.

Through UNLV’s first 12 games, no position battle was more hotly debated than point guard. Designated sixth man Amauri Hardy was clearly having a breakthrough sophomore campaign that merited a promotion, and senior Noah Robotham was struggling (but a good bet to return to his career norms).

The dilemma facing Marvin Menzies was how to utilize both players at the same position while getting the best out of them. His solution has been to play them together.

UNLV inserted Hardy into the starting lineup alongside Robotham three games ago, coinciding with the beginning of the Mountain West schedule. The twin-point guard look has proven to be effective; the Rebels have won all three contests, and a victory over Air Force today (8 p.m., ESPNU) would give UNLV its first 4-0 start in conference play since the 1991-92 team went 18-0 in the Big West.

In three games as a starter, Hardy is averaging 9.0 points and 6.7 assists in 31.3 minutes, while Robotham has posted 11.0 points and 5.3 assists while making 35.7 percent of his 3-pointers. In UNLV’s statement win at New Mexico last week, Hardy and Robotham teamed up to shred the Lobos’ pressure defense, combining for 26 points and 11 assists.

So far, Menzies has shown a commitment to playing his point guards together. Instead of staggering their minutes, Menzies is pairing Hardy and Robotham and running the offense through them. In the 12 non-conference games, Hardy and Robotham shared the court for 37.2 percent of UNLV’s minutes; in three conference games, they’ve played together 63.2 percent of the time.

When teaming up in the backcourt, Hardy and Robotham have helped UNLV outscore opponents 145-139 in the last three games, which works out to a plus/minus rating of +3.2 per 40 minutes.

Against an Air Force defense that has shown vulnerability to dribble penetration, the ball figures to be in the hands of either Robotham or Hardy most of the time. If they continue to play well together, UNLV should be able to come away with another win and a 4-0 record in the Mountain West.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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