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Kevin Kruger preaches better shot selection for struggling UNLV

Updated December 4, 2021 - 5:06 am

Shot selection remains a priority for UNLV basketball coach Kevin Kruger. So much so that he installed tape on the courts inside the Mendenhall Center to highlight the spots from which he wants the Rebels to shoot.

“They do a lot of stats and stuff so it just shows where we’re good at offensively and the shots that we need to take as a team,” senior wing Bryce Hamilton said. “That’s just something that they really emphasize. And something that we have to do to get better shots.”

UNLV (4-4) remains mired in an offensive slump, and Kruger is determined to end it by any means necessary. The Rebels struggled to score again Wednesday in the first half of an 83-64 road loss to Southern Methodist. They will have a chance to atone Saturday at San Francisco (8-0).

“This group has been exceptional when it comes to the coaching aspect. Film,” Kruger said. “They know that the season isn’t lost just because of SMU.”

Still, it’s crucial UNLV steadies its offense soon.

The Rebels are averaging 0.866 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports Technology, and nobody in their rotation is shooting better than 46.2 percent from the field. The starting lineup of Hamilton, Jordan McCabe, Mike Nuga, Donovan Williams and Royce Hamm is shooting 39.3 percent.

Without consistent shot creators beyond Hamilton, Kruger has preached ball and player movement and patience to a roster comprised of 10 new scholarship players. That means limiting long jumpers early in possessions and contested, off-the-dribble 2-pointers early in the shot clock.

“We don’t want to take away their aggression, but we just want to make sure we’re being stubborn in the sense of getting a better shot,” Kruger said. “When it gets later in the clock, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make a play.”

Kruger has leaned into an analytical approach that favors open catch-and-shoot 3-pointers — particularly from the corners — and high-percentage shots at the rim that also could yield defensive fouls. Hamilton acknowledged that “there’s going to be a couple growing pains” as the coaching staff hunkers down on shot selection.

But he understands the approach is what’s best for a team shooting 40.2 percent and 30.7 percent from 3-point range.

“It’s something we’ve got to be aware of and just do what’s right,” Hamilton said. “We’re not making (midrange jumpers) right now as a team. It’s something we’re going to keep working on.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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