Three takeaways from the UNLV basketball team’s 92-66 victory over Oral Roberts on Tuesday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena:
1. The Rebels figured out the zone
Arizona threw some double-teams at UNLV on Saturday as the Wildcats won 91-88 in overtime, but Oral Roberts opted to play a zone, which might be the defense of choice for future opponents given the difficulty of matching up with the Rebels’ front line.
In scoring 17 first-half points while his teammates struggled early, Shakur Juiston used his experience against the zone to his benefit.
“I played against that zone in junior college, so I was already picking out my spots where I should go, where I’d be available,” Juiston said. “So I kept that in my mind every time we came on offense, and it worked out. For the rest of the team, it was something that we were new to. Nobody had run it against us, so at first we struggled against it a little bit, but then we found little cracks in it and came out good.”
Oral Roberts routinely opened its halfcourt defense with a 1-3-1 look and a move into a 2-3.
Past UNLV teams often would be thrown off by the zone, but on this night the Rebels got their offense rolling and scored 51 points in the second half. For the game, they shot 54.2 percent and tied a season high with 27 assists.
“We ended up running our man offense against (the zone) because it got the bodies moving and the ball moving,” UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said. “That freed us up offensively because we were a little bit stagnant trying to execute conceptual reactions to zone play.”
2. UNLV’s guards got back on their roll
It looked like Jovan Mooring’s struggles would continue when he shot an air ball from 12 feet early in the game, but he and Jordan Johnson wound up responding well to consecutive off games.
Mooring was 5 of 11 (3 of 7 on 3-pointers) against Oral Roberts, scoring 15 points. He’s made 5 of 25 shots over the past two games.
Johnson often ran the point with precision, delivering 11 assists. It was his highest assist total since producing 14 against Southern Utah on Nov. 25.
“They’re both great players,” Menzies said. “They struggled a little bit offensively. They both have done some really good things defensively. I think they turned the tide of the game tonight with their defense.”
3. The early letdown was hardly a surprise
Especially after emotional overtime losses at Northern Iowa and to Arizona. Facing an Oral Roberts team that had lost seven of eight games, UNLV figured it wouldn’t come out blazing.
The key, other than Juiston’s early production, was that the Rebels finally got it together, going on a 16-1 run late in the first half to take control. And then they didn’t let the Golden Eagles seriously threaten in the final 20 minutes.