T.J. Otzelberger got beat. For the third time in three tries as UNLV’s head coach, Otzelberger was beaten by Nevada. His counterpart, Steve Alford got the best of him.
UNLV was without their star player, Bryce Hamilton. While that showed up on the offensive end, the Rebel defense was the bigger problem.
UNLV opened the game with Caleb Grill face guarding Nevada’s best player, Grant Sherfield. Caleb Grill did a fine job keeping Sherfield under wraps. Sherfield did not score until Grill checked out and UNLV had to use other defenders.
That strategy did not backfire on Otzelberger, but almost everything else did.
Nevada opened the game attacking David Jenkins, who has proven to be a below average defender in the Mountain West. Desmond Cambridge beat Jenkins twice on the opening four possession to score.
Otzelberger chose to give little used freshman Reece Brown playing time and Alford picked on him. Nevada ran ball screens on four straight possessions where Brown had to guard the screener. Brown got lost and had to be taken out of the game.
But where Alford really beat Otzelberger was exposing UNLV’s hard hedging ball screen defense. When Mbacke Diong guards a ball screen, he jumps out past the three-point line. He is not double teaming, but just trying to force the ball handler to dribble back towards mid court.
While this defense helps eliminate the ball handler getting a good look, it leaves the roll man open. Diong has to run from past the three-point line to the rim to recover.
And that is where Alford simply used spacing to put the UNLV defense in a no-win scenario. UNLV’s other three defenders had to decide if they wanted to provide help to the paint or stay on the perimeter to take away a three
You can see Devin Tillis making that decision on this play.
UNLV’s pack line defense calls for help side defense in this scenario, meaning Nevada could get open threes simply by exploiting UNLV’s ball screen defense.
UNLV adjusted at halftime and started switching more ball screens, but it was too late. Nevada had already established their lead and cruised to an easy victory.
The margin of defeat for UNLV was inflated thanks to Nevada’s ridiculous shooting. The Wolf Pack drilled 14 of 24 threes (58.3%). Nevada entered the game shooting 32.8 percent from three and just finished a two-game series with Wyoming where they shot 10 of 49 (20.4%).
When UNLV and Nevada meet on Tuesday, it is almost a guarantee that the three-point shooting will cool. But even with a few less made threes, UNLV still needs defensive adjustments to pick up a win in Reno.