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Rebels strive for offensive improvement on 1st road trip

UNLV basketball coach Kevin Kruger reviewed the 73-51 loss to UCLA with his assistant coaches and players on Monday and identified successful offensive possessions.

Ones that involved ball and player movement, timely passing and cutting. And screening.

“The challenge is sustaining it and doing it consistently,” Kruger said. “We pulled clips of how we want it to look and how it should look with this group. … We’re still very excited about the future of this group because they’ve shown they can do it.”

The Rebels (4-3) are still trying to unlock their offense amid the lulls and scoring droughts that have plagued them against quality competition. They didn’t score for nearly seven minutes Saturday against the Bruins, and went 10 minutes last Sunday without making a field goal in a loss to Wichita State.

They’re averaging a paltry 0.862 points per possession through seven games, according to data compiled by Synergy Sports Technology. They’re shooting 40.4 percent from the floor and 29.7 percent from 3-point range, ranking in the bottom quarter of Division I programs in both statistical measures.

They’ve been stout enough defensively, though, to remain competitive during the offensive droughts, at least until the loss to UCLA. They rank 38th among 350 Division I teams in field-goal percentage defense (38.2), and have relied on their defense in all three of their victories against Division I competition.

“We’ve been pretty consistent in implementing what we’ve wanted to do,” Kruger said. “The guys are still playing really hard. That’s as key as everything.”

So, too, is improving the offense.

Kruger said the Rebels “sometimes get to a point where they want to prove they can make that shot versus just being a little more patient and prove that we can get a great shot as a team.

“It’s one of those weird things … they’re not here because they’re passive,” he added. “They’re here because they’re stubborn (about) getting better and proving people wrong.”

The ball movement, he said, was better Saturday against UCLA, but not good enough to generate quality looks at the rim. Far too often, the Rebels attempted the first available open 3-pointer or settled for a contested jumper.

Patience, Kruger said, is the key to generating more clean looks near the basket.

“Rewatching (the loss to UCLA) … the biggest thing was just finding ways to create better shots,” junior wing Donovan Williams said. “It’s still learning guys’ tendencies. Learning when to shoot. When not to shoot.’

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

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