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BYU Basketball Film Study: Utah and UNLV

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 04 BYU at Utah Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another week of games has gone by and despite a disappointing set back against Utah, BYU rebounded with a blowout win against UNLV to stay on the fringes of the NCAA tournament conversation. Looking over the film, here are some of the things that went wrong against Utah and right against UNLV:

Step ins

Utah scored 62 points in the paint, and while many of those were also fast-break points, they found a lot of success on a simple action that we struggled to guard.

This step in action off of a ballscreen is designed to take advantage of defenders paying more attention to the screen than their man. Here, Zac’s man simply steps across him, getting a deep catch that leads to an easy bucket. Pretty much all of our defenders struggled with this as they offered little resistance either to the big just stepping in on the same side or to a big floating across the lane like this clip from the second half.

When Utah wasn’t scoring on these, they were drawing fouls as our defenders were caught behind the offensive player. The remedy is simple, but takes focus to be physical, beat defenders to the spot, and then move them off of their spot. We failed to do that against Utah and it helped them stay in the game and manufacture buckets. UNLV didn’t use this action much but when they did, we did a much better job of guarding it.

Notice how Yoeli doesn’t just concede the spot, but actively pushes his man up the key, resulting in a catch much further from the basket than the offense wants. We will have to maintain this kind of focus as we navigate the schedule especially against Gonzaga, who excels at this action.

Transition Defense

Utah made a strong push in transition and hit pay-dirt more often than not. They mostly pushed off the dribble and in an effort to not get blown by, we gave them way too much space to operate. Take a look at how this guard is able to almost dribble straight down the floor and to the rim.

He never gets redirected until he’s at the free throw line and at that point, with a defender on their heels, it is easy to get to the rim. We consistently struggled to contain the ball handler in transition and retreated way too deep.

You can’t keep backpedaling while the offensive player drives in a straight line. Often it’s taught that you shouldn’t retreat below the top of the free throw circle. At that point you need to stop retreating, maybe feint at the ball handler, and get them to slow down and change direction. At times we engaged the ball handler earlier and the transition fizzled out quickly.

Notice Alex closes the distance earlier on this possession. He still is backpedaling but right around half court, he stops giving ground so aggressively and discourages the drive. When we did get the ball handled we started to struggle behind the ball.

It’s a cardinal sin of transition defense to not have a man “in the hole”, i.e. close to the rim to make sure nothing gets behind the defense. Here, Alex releases before Dalton can recover all the way to the rim and we give up an open layup. Unfortunately when we then got someone in the hole, we failed to get out and engage the rest of the defense when the big had recovered.

Zac does a good job getting back first but Yoeli and Alex are slow to recover while Connor is in charge of a three point threat. Once he sees that Dalton is back with his man, Zac should release out and get up further to stop the ball. Transition defense can be difficult but also can be very simple so it should be easy to address.

Bad turnovers

All turnovers are bad, but some are definitely worse than others. Our offense thrives on reversing the ball and working side to side, many times through a big getting a catch at the top of the key. As the game got tighter, we couldn’t get a catch and just plain threw the ball away.

For the most part, we were actually pretty good in the half court on defense but our struggles in transition and our turnovers kept giving the Utes opportunities to stay in the game and eventually make things close enough that the result could go either way.

Inefficient shots

Our offense does such a good job of generating good looks that it’s hard to watch us put up bad shots at times. Check what the the score is during these three possessions:

Granted, Yoeli did make a similar shot to this earlier in the game, and Jake has made them before but as the game tightened it would have been nice if only one of these had happened. Our ball movement powered us to our double digit leads so it was unfortunate that we abandoned it a little too much late in the game.

Packing the paint

After giving up as many paint points as we did against Utah, it was interesting to see the game plan against UNLV. Timmy Allen killed us in the post against Utah and UNLV wanted to get Tillman catches on the block as well. Watch Dalton and Zac to see how we decided to protect the paint against the Rebels.

After the initial pass Dalton completely releases his man to load up on the ball. Zac is also basically disregarding his man to show a presence in the paint. After the skip out, we recover nicely and get a stop. We showed this look all game and UNLV couldn’t capitalize off of it because we zoned up well off the ball and recovered nicely. Check out Dalton again in this possession as he almost completely disregards his man on the other side of the court to load up against a drive and get a charge:

We will most likely try this out against other teams that don’t have reliable stretch bigs. UNLV never ran enough off ball action to take advantage of it but expect other teams to try and beat it with cuts and screens off the ball.

Dalton kick outs

Dalton played great against UNLV, setting a new career high in points but something that stood out to me was his dedication to keeping the offense moving. A few times he didn’t even even touch the ground before making the right pass to kick it to an open shooter.

This type of quick decision making puts a lot of stress on the defense and though we missed both of these shots, it’s a huge part of why we are making so many threes.

Floor general

TJ Haws has really grown into his role on this team, especially now that Yoeli is back on the court. Their shared chemistry is obvious but it’s also great to see TJ loose and distributing the ball to his teammates in transition and in the half court. He had seven assists and no turnovers against UNLV but as these clips show, he could have had a lot more.

The thing I like about all of these looks is that they are all the “right” pass. A few are flashier than others but sometimes the right pass is very simple like a pass ahead because the swipe defender over committed or a left handed post entry to quickly get the open man the ball. TJ is very dedicated to keeping this offense humming and it looked great against UNLV. One of his biggest strengths (and weaknesses at times) is his confidence to throw passes that others might not and I think that’s a skill this team needs, possibly more than his scoring prowess, now that Yoeli is back. In a game where all of the other shooters are knocking it down, he did a masterful job of setting up everyone and not letting the ball stick.