Three takeaways from the UNLV basketball team’s 81-75 victory over Wyoming on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Sticking to the game plan
UNLV (8-7, 1-1) was committed to stopping the 3-point shot against one of the better shooting teams in the Mountain West.
The Rebels refused to adjust on defense, and Wyoming (11-4, 1-1) attacked the rim with ease.
It was a risky game plan, but it paid off with the Cowboys shooting 5 of 26 on 3-pointers. Wyoming’s top shooters, Jason McManamen and Cody Kelly, combined for only four points.
“Challenge all threes and be there on the catch, and certain guys we didn’t even want taking them,” UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said. “McManamen and Kelly was the other guy we had identified, as we didn’t even want them to get it off.”
Wyoming’s bigs had a solid outing because of the Rebels’ soft interior defense. Forward Dalton Hayden had 16 points, and guard Justin James had no problem driving to the rim and scored 17.
“They came that way with the drive and kick threes, but we stayed with the game plan,” UNLV forward Christian Jones said.
At one point, Menzies considered going to a man defense after missed shots to prevent transition layups but decided to stick with the zone.
Wyoming scored 40 points in the paint to the Rebels’ 32.
JONES HAS BEEN FOUND
Jones, who has battled injuries this season, was coming off a poor performance in the loss to Colorado State on Wednesday.
Menzies challenged his senior forward to turn it around against Wyoming.
“We looked at the film from Colorado State and were like, ‘Bro, this is not the dude we brought in. Where’s that guy? And what do we need to do to get that guy to show up against Wyoming?’” Menzies said.
Jones responded with 15 points and 10 rebounds. When the offense went cold from the perimeter, Jones posted up for baskets inside the paint.
Menzies said he expects Jones to play like that every night, but understands that seven games isn’t enough for the forward to find rhythm.
“He put himself in position to catch and work, and we had a more aggressive Christian Jones tonight because he’s healthy and has the reps,” Menzies said. “He just hasn’t had a lot of reps with all the time he missed.”
POINT GUARD NO PROBLEM
In Las Vegas, there’s always a point guard problem. That wasn’t the case Saturday.
Junior guard Jovan Mooring gave the Rebels a spark in the second half with his scoring and nifty passes.
Mooring, who recorded seven assists, was involved in the play of the game when the Rebels dived for a loose ball and moved it up the court to Mooring, who spotted Tyrell Green down low for the no-look assist and 70-63 advantage.
“This is not the first time we’ve had to grind it out, but I think it was more of a mentality that we didn’t want to lose,” Mooring said. “They were a great team, and they competed with everyone they played this year. We knew it would be a challenge.”
Mooring was 5 of 9 from the field and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Contact Gilbert Manzano at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0492. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.