During his tenure as head coach in the state of South Dakota, TJ Otzelberger built his high-octane offense on highly efficient shot selection.
In other words, his teams shot 3-pointers, layups, and free throws.
At the bottom of this list of desirable recordings are retries. Today’s attacking coaches recognize that the aftermath is a minor endeavor. Back-to-the-basket shots are both difficult to take and only count for two points. The worst of both worlds.
And yet UNLV went into competition on Friday in the state of San Jose, determined to work the ball inside. And damn it, if it didn’t work like a charm, as the scarlet and gray got a good production out of the post in a 76:60 win over SJSU.
Freshman Devin Tillis made his first career start, putting his defender back for a quick jump to collect UNLV’s first points. Mbacke Diong fell into three post baskets in the first half. Even the newcomer Nick Blake got involved, posted and fouled.
It didn’t look like Otzelberger’s ball mark, but the coach was more than happy with the results.
“I think we have to use more. It gives us more physicality for our offense, ”said Otzelberger. “I think every game requires something different, but I think we need to focus more on going in there when we can, trying to get to the foul line and trying to do a little more on the edge than we do.”
Otzelberger informed Tillis earlier this week about his promotion to the starting line-up and let him know that the ball would find its way down. Tillis said assistant coach Tim Buckley worked with him to refine his post moves and it all came together against the overcrowded central defense of the San Jose state.
Tillis, a crafty 6-foot-6 striker, scored four post-up baskets and finished 6-of-7 with 14 points.
Tillis credited his teammates for giving him space to work.
“I was able to be so effective because all of my other guys on the edge were doing great,” he said. “I had knives on the back, so all the attention was on them. I could take my time, play slowly and get my shot high or find the open man on the edge. “
For the game, UNLV scored a 38-24 point lead in the color.
When the scarlet and gray didn’t hold back the San Jose state defenses, security guard Bryce Hamilton was able to get from dribbling onto the lane and convert from midfield. After scoring two points in the first half, Hamilton took apart the Spartans’ zone defenses in the second half and finished the 9-of-17 shooting with 18 points.
Diong scored six points and six rebounds while David Jenkins and Moses Wood scored 16 and 11 points from the bench, respectively.
UNLV is now 9-11 in the season and 6-7 in the mountain west. The second leg against San Jose State is on Sunday.
Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.
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