Dave Rice is attempting to change a lot within his team’s collective mindset in his first season as UNLV basketball coach.
Along with implementing a new offensive system, his players are also getting it pounded into their heads to do something that is taught at a very young age but is the foundation of success in his scheme: make the extra pass. Since being hired in April, Rice has encouraged his team to spot the open man. Even if a player has a good look, Rice wants him to first make sure there isn’t someone with an easier attempt.
So, despite UNLV only making 15 shots from the field in Tuesday’s 58-50 exhibition victory over Division II Washburn, including just four in the first half, it was able to rack up 11 assists. That’s a whopping 73 percent of baskets being aided by a teammate making the extra pass.
What did Rice think about that effort?
“We tried,” he said. “We look at our assist numbers in the first half and they weren’t very good, but we only had four field goals. It’s pretty hard to get an assist whenever you only have four field goals. We definitely made a conscious effort to try and find each other. There have been times this year where we have almost been unselfish to a fault. You have to tell guys sometimes, ‘Shoot the ball.’ I have no issue at all with our team play.”
Playing without senior forward Chace Stanback, the Rebels’ leading returning scorer who was sitting out because of suspension, UNLV shot just 31 percent from the field, including 2-for-18 (11 percent) from 3-point range.
Rice believes the offense will click eventually, and he still has nearly a week to prepare his team for its Nov. 11 season opener against Grand Canyon at the Thomas & Mack Center. One thing he doesn’t have to worry about is his team being too selfish. Seems they’re already looking out for each other.