Coming off a blowout win over UNLV, BYU basketball faced off against two more Mountain West foes last week. BYU handily dispatched a cold shooting Nevada team and then took down preseason top 25 Utah St with a great defensive effort. Take a look at what the Cougar Cagers did well last week.
Getting Yoeli Catches
Yoeli has firmly been integrated into the offense now that he’s had four games back with the team. Any worries about his return challenging the flow we have on offense have been abated as he’s done well in his roll and pop situations; but given his talent on the block, we have started to use a multitude of ways to get him catches in the post.
This first look is a simple upscreen after a downscreen from Jake. With as much attention as Jake will be getting defenses this should generate a lot of looks like this from Yoeli since Jake’s man won’t want to bump Yoeli. I like how Yoeli doesn’t wait for the defense to make his move here. We have another variation on this action where TJ cuts off his cut to the corner and sets the screen.
It’s nice to have multiple variations to keep defenses guessing. In addition to catches on the block, the coaching staff has wanted to get Yoeli catches in the middle of the floor to make it harder for teams to double team him. Here we try to get him on a step in after a handoff, a great action to challenge how aware his defender is. If this action looks familiar it’s because it’s a staple for Utah’s offense and something they killed us on.
He’s been doing great work off the ball and does a great job carving out space off ball. TJ is also great in this action to go ahead and throw the pass even though it looks like Bean might have it covered.
Finally, when teams start to load up on these actions in the half court we are looking for early opportunities for post ups in transition and secondary transition. Again, Yoeli is doing excellent work to get positioning.
I like how fast we get up the floor on this possession and Yoeli knows exactly where he is going. Again, TJ does a good job letting Yoeli set up and get position and the spacing of the shooters makes it hard for Utah State to rotate and take away the pass. In addition to these looks we also have a few cross screen sets that haven’t been as effective but it’s great to see a diversity of ways we are actively trying to get Yoeli catches outside of just hitting him after a roll.
Jake cross-floor pull ups
I noticed a particular type of attempt that Jake likes to use when things kind of bog down. It’s a very simple action where he dribbles across the top of the key to see how defenders react and it’s worked well against both regular and switching defenses. He’s used it earlier in the season and had 3 makes on it in the first half alone against Nevada
I like how simple but effective this action is. Nevada tried some switching but then got confused on if it was a switch situation or not. Other teams have let the other defender go on top of them which gives Jake a ton of space to shoot. It’s a very crafty approach to creating space for the shot and teams are starting to notice. Utah State most likely scouted it and was all over it, making sure to treat it like a normal switch situation.
It will be interesting how many other teams will be aware of it and catch it and how many he’ll be able to trick and get off an open three.
With how well we are moving the ball in the halfcourt and how effective Yoeli has been in the second halves of games, we might start to see a little more zone from teams to try and throw off our rhythm. Utah State played a 1-3-1 type matchup zone for much of the second half and if probably worked about 50-60% of the time. We often settled for possessions like this one.
We had others similar to this that got us more open looks as we just passed it back and forth up top. While we have shooters that are good enough to bust a zone like this we actually didn’t hit very many threes just passing it back and forth like this. As with any zone the success came as we challenged the interior of it and got cutters going across the floor.
TJ does a good job of challenging the zone right at the beginning of the possession with a post entry to Yoeli. We then continue to probe the zone until Yoeli lifts his man out from under the rim and Dalton gets an easy look on a back door. We probed the zone pretty well about half of the time and when we did it usually worked. I think more teams may try and zone us even though we have so many good shooters because a lot of our looks come from kickouts either from the roll or dribble penetration. It will be fun to see what kind of sets we go to.
Yoeli active hands
Yoeli had a goal when he decided to come back to be the defensive player of the year. He took a little bit of time to adjust but he’s done well so far. I mentioned on twitter the other day that he’s averaging 2.25 deflections a game and he had 4 against Utah State. Here he gets two in a single possession.
He’s getting a lot of work done in this clip. After coming over to double Merrill he tips the pass out which gives him more time to recover and then strip the driver. Combined with his 1 block per game, if he keeps impacting the game like this he might have a shot at that DPOY.
Guarding good guards
BYU faced off against two pretty good guards in Jazz Johnson of Nevada and Sam Merrill on Utah St and did well against both of them. Johnson averages 16.9 points a game but only had eight on twenty-three percent shooting. Meanwhile Merrill was held to eleven points on only two field goal makes. Stopping these two scorers started with the guards and TJ, Connor, and Alex all did a great job. Here TJ does a great job smothering a ballscreen refusal action.
In addition to being solid on the ball, BYU was very good off the ball in last week’s games. Both of these teams run a lot of actions off ball to get their guards headed downhill or open threes and our guards, Connor especially, did great work to disrupt things. Watch Connor work against Jazz Johnson here.
I really like how he dictates the first screen by cutting off a side of the floor. It’s hard to keep up with the offensive player when they can pick a screen to go off of so he makes it easier on himself. Yoeli also does a great job in this clip to help on the second curl and swipe at the ball. In the Utah State game, Connor again came to play by just straight up preventing Merrill from getting catches.
One of the best things about those three clips was that each was a different action that Connor was all over. He blew up a backscreen/downscreen set, a stagger screen, and a handoff.
Stopping dynamic guards is a team effort and the bigs did a good job of executing the game plan. Once again we employed a scheme that had the bigs stay a long time with the guard to prevent them from getting any looks to pass or score.
Notice how Dalton completely ignores his man once the guard comes off the screen and trusts the backside of the defense. He also has his eyes on the guard action the whole possession. In the second clip Yoeli does a good job of stringing out Merrill and contesting the pass, causing it to float and give TJ enough time to recover and close after helping on the roll. BYU has been good on defense all season and it’s helped them get into the NCAA tournament conversation. That sustained effort gives me confidence that we’ll be able to avoid any other slip ups against inferior competition.
The mantra we’ve heard so far this season from players and coaches has been trust in each other. That trust manifests itself in a lot of ways but I think is exemplified well in this simple play from the Utah State game.
The fact that Yoeli throws this in to Kolby instead of trying to force it himself or kick it out to a guard is a great indicator of how everyone on this team trusts each other. Yo gets rewarded for it as well with a pass back on the cut which then draws a foul. When your team’s best players are bought in to the system it creates some beautiful basketball.
A wild left hand finish appears!
BYU’s bigs have rarely finished with their left hands so far this year so I was excited to finally see one against Nevada.
I like the progress that Kolby shows here. Earlier in the year he either would travel trying to go back baseline or not use his left hand but here he takes the time to gather his feet and gets the bucket. The coaching staff has talked about getting better every day throughout the season and it’s nice to see small indicators like this that we are continuing to improve.