By Ken Cross
UNLV coach Marvin Menzies is growing the Rebels slowly yet surely although they dropped their second game of the week, a 91-88 overtime thriller to Arizona in the Thomas & Mack Center.
Menzies know the players and they program have to take steps, but it doesn’t hurt the initial pain of a loss especially the two overtime losses to both Northern Iowa and the Wildcats in a challenging week.
“Another lost opportunity and also there is growth,” said Menzies, “But it’s also about winning and we fell a little short of our goal tonight. There’s a lot of individual accolades that could be statistically thrown around, but we didn’t win the game.”
UNLV led struggling Arizona by as many as 13 in the second half before Arizona caught them at 60-60 on a layup by Dylan Smith with 9:39 remaining. From there Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton went to work as they scored 14 of the last 18 points to force the overtime as Arizona tied it at 78-each to force the extra session.
“They started going to their guys and ran a lot of iso situations,” noted Menzies, “The got a lot of post situations and elbow situations for DeAndre and he was rolling tonight and Allonzo did well. You know those two guys are going to get theirs. We did a good job on the rest of their guys. Even the three games they lost those two guys scored.
The growth is seen in so many areas for Vegas. The caliber of player that is there now is a major part of the 6-0 start and then going on the road and taking a hot UNI Panthers team to overtime before an overtime loss to a legitimate Top 10 team who lost their three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis just under two weeks ago.
Star freshman Brandon McCoy matchup and played a strong game vs. Anton and Dusan Ristic in the post. He played 37 minutes, scored 33 points on 13-of-17 shooting and was the reason that UNLV consistently battled the Wildcats in the paint as they outscored Arizona 52-48 inside and was even on the boards at 37-37.
“I would say the double team was not a factor,” said Menzies, “There’s more than one way to help you team than the initial catch and score. He had 10 rebounds and you have to play inside the weak side, which he did. Gave him jump shot opportunities because they collapsed.”
The missed opportunity at the end of regulation proved how a young point guard in talented Jovan Mooring is growing up as well. Menzies drew a play to try to get the ball rolling at the basket, since they were successful inside all night. Instead, Mooring took a three and missed to force the extra five minutes.
“The play was drawn up to get something going at the basket,” explained Menzies, “In the heat of the moment you have a kid that has to make a decision and his decision was to pull it up for whatever reason and we will go back and teach him why statistically, we want you to get to the rim. What we want from that exact set and he will grow from it and he will get better.”
The Runnin’ Rebels are back in action on Tuesday in playing Oral Roberts at the MGM Grand and then Illinois visits at the same site on Saturday.