The New Mexico Lobos defeated the UNLV Running Rebels is a very entertaining semifinal game in the Mountain West. The teams had split the two regular season games largely due to UNLV's solid defense. In their January win over the Lobos, UNLV held New Mexico to just 0.98 points per possession. And even when UNLV lost, they still limited the Lobos to 1.01 points per possession. UNLV has the 28th ranked defense in the nation, and they were solid in conference play.
In the first half on Friday it looked like more of the same for the Lobos. They scored 31 points in 32 first half possessions (0.97 per possession) and trailed the Rebels by three. But then in the 2nd half everything changed. In just 33 possessions the Lobos scored 41 points (1.24 per possession). To put that in perspective, only 1 of 345 Division I teams in the nation (Missouri) regularly scores at that pace.
So how did they do it? Execution. UNLV made a number of defensive miscues in the 2nd half, and the Lobos jumped on them every time. This is the sign of a good offense. All defenses make mistakes. Games are won by the teams that can execute crisply to take advantage of those mistakes.
To the video.
In this first play Kendall Williams (circled) is initiating the set and is looking to star Drew Gordon (arrow) in the post. UNM is in a line stack (all four players spread evenly across the court and below the free throw line), which Steve Alford utilizes constantly.
Tony Snell (arrow) cuts to the basket and is supposed to get a backscreen from AJ Hardeman (#0), but Hardeman isn't in position. It doesn't matter though, as Chace Stanback just lets him make the cut. From there, it's an easy dump in from Gordon (circled).
Here's the play at full speed:
In play #2 (the very next possession) Hugh Greenwood (circled) has the ball and is getting a screen from Drew Gordon. Gordon's man Brice Massamba (arrow) is about 8' too deep, and in no position to hedge and slow down Greenwood.
Greenwood (circled) drives and there's no way that Massamba can stay in front of him. This leaves Tony Snell (arrow) open for a three after his man leaves him to help on Greenwood.
Play #3 begins with Cameron Bairstow (circled) buried in the corner. The solution is a dribble handoff to Jamal Fenton (arrow). Fenton's man needs to be in position to cut that off, but he's not.
Now it's Bairstow's man (Mike Moser, arrow) time to blow the play. Moser bites on the fake and goes right, while Bairstow sets the screen leaving Fenton wide open for the three.
In our final play, Drew Gordon (circled) has the ball and is double teamed, as he was most of the 2nd half. Demetrius Walker (arrow) realizes that he's unguarded due to the double.
Walker (arrow) does what every basketball player is tought to do from a young age. Realizing he's uncovered, he cuts to the basket. UNLV does nothing to defend this. It's an easy pass for Gordon (circled) to make.
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