Scoring the basketball is not as easy as Brandon McCoy sometimes makes it look.
The freshman center turned in his second straight phenomenal performance on Wednesday, pouring in 22 points to lead UNLV to an otherwise routine 76-67 win over San Jose State at the Thomas & Mack Center.
McCoy made 8-of-13 from the field, and his entire arsenal was on display as he scored in the post, knocked down jumpers, tipped in rebounds and made his free throws (6-of-7).
That McCoy was able to shred San Jose State's interior defense in such fashion was a good sign for the Rebels. He went through a mini slump that saw him held to single-digit scoring in three straight games from Jan. 10 through Jan. 20, and he averaged just 15.3 points in the first eight Mountain West games (after posting 18.9 in non-conference play).
Mountain West teams were swarming him with double- and triple-teams, and McCoy seemed hesitant to attack. But in the last two games, McCoy has reestablished himself as an offensive force. He made 9-of-12 shots and scored 21 points in UNLV's win over San Diego State on Saturday, and his showing against San Jose State was even better, as he added 17 rebounds and three blocks.
McCoy credited head coach Marvin Menzies for a recent film session that reaffirmed his place in the Rebels' offense.
"The other day I went into film with coach Menzies and he showed me it was four or five people guarding me," McCoy said. "So he was just telling me to slow down and trust my teammates, and they've been giving me the ball and trusting me with the ball. And I've been finding the open man if someone comes to me. And if not, I just take my man 1-on-1."
Sounds simple, doesn't it? McCoy made it look that way against San Jose State (3-18, 0-10 MWC), and UNLV needed it. The Rebels came out flat — SJSU jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and another 11-0 run midway through the first half saw the Spartans take a 23-18 lead — and for a while, McCoy's offense was the only thing keeping UNLV afloat.
McCoy nailed a mid-range jumper, then slammed home a dunk a minute later to give UNLV a 34-31 lead late in the first half. The Rebels closed the half on an 11-3 run, went into the break with a 39-34 advantage, and McCoy protected it the rest of the way.
He scored 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the second half, and San Jose State never got closer than eight points over the final nine minutes.
Besides McCoy, there wasn't a whole lot working for the Rebels' offense. Jordan Johnson posted 15 points and six assists, but UNLV made just 5-of-21 from 3-point range.
Menzies wasn't happy with the Rebels' intensity to open the game.
"I called an early timeout [because] I didn't think they came out with the energy and the pop that we needed," Menzies said. "Everybody wants to beat the Rebels, so you're going to get everybody's best shot. You need to make sure you show up every single night, and I think we're still learning that lesson."
On Wednesday, McCoy was enough to pull the Rebels through. UNLV is now 16-6 on the season and 5-4 in the Mountain West.
The Rebels have won two straight league games for the first time this season, and they'll take some momentum into their toughest stretch of the season, as they will next travel to take on contenders Boise State (Saturday) and UNR (Feb. 7).