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BYU Basketball Film Study: Maui Invitational Week

2019 Maui Invitational - BYU v UCLA Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

After four games in six days, BYU completed its stretch without Yoeli Childs at a record of 6-3. TJ Haws’ awakening and great outside shooting powered the team to 2-1 in Maui and continued as BYU mopped up NAIA Montana Tech Saturday. Here are a few things that led to success in Maui, and some that can be used as building blocks moving forward.

Slip Screens

Getting downhill, whether through the ball handler coming off of a screen or hitting the roll, is critical to BYU’s offense. Switching defenses and flat shows have been able to keep us from getting into the lane so lately we’ve started slipping screens. Look at how things get gummed up here when UCLA switches:

Slipping the screen can be an effective release against these defensive adjustments as it clears out the big early and eliminates the switch, allowing the offense to test the defense downhill. Jake’s pass is too far ahead here, but if it was on target we would be right where we want to be.

The slip also clears out the big, freeing up the guard to penetrate if they do it quickly. Jake is a little slow on the drive here but has a nice pass fake to give himself a driving advantage. The lack of help allows him to get into the paint a little, drawing the swipe man and freeing up Alex.

BYU will most likely continue this strategy as more and more teams load up on the ballscreens and try to bog down our offensive momentum.

Zac on the glass

Prior to this year, Zac had eight games with six rebounds or more. This year, he already has five. He set his career high in the game against UCLA (11) and averaged six rebounds per game in Maui despite only picking up one against Kansas. He’s been relentless on the glass, as these clips show:

Notice how he is crashing all the way from the three point line in two of these clips. In the second clip, even though UCLA scores, he does his job and boxes his man all the way out of bounds. Zac’s ability to embrace the Dalton Nixon style of play has been huge in this team’s success. It takes a lot of discipline to crash the glass every single time, especially when you are out on the perimeter more often than not, but he’s thrived in his role.

Keeping the dribble alive

In the UCLA post game, TJ talked about how the team had a focus to keep the dribble alive unless a gool look was available at the rim. The team in general, and TJ specifically, has struggled a little with that principle at times and at first against UCLA, it wasn’t sinking in.

TJ starts his gather around the free throw line here, killing his ability to do anything but put up an awkward, contested, layup. I’m not sure what clicked, but for the rest of the week we saw very few of these attempts and more of this next clip:

Here, he keeps his dribble alive, navigating the defense and getting the help all turned around. The big switching on him couldn’t quite keep up and the helping big was caught over committing. Steve Nash used to do this type of thing a lot and it’s a great technique for putting stress on the defense and opening opportunities like this.

Playing soft on drivers

Though BYU’s defense usually likes to apply a little bit of pressure, in the matchup against Kansas we decided to back off to hamper their ability to get to the rim. It paid off pretty well as it baited them into a lot of isolations.

Forcing these kind of shots worked to our advantage as our other defenders could load up to the rebound and clean the glass. This drop coverage also caused shooters to hesitate leading to a fair amount of out of rhythm shots.

This was one of just two offensive rebounds Kansas had in the first half. Things broke down a little in the second as they started making shots and we couldn’t hit anything but I’m sure we’ll see this softer defense again next time we encounter a slashing team.

Transition D

Our defense has been pretty solid, but we had some mixups that need to be corrected in transition. Check out this miscue against Kansas:

Jake and Dalton get crossed up with neither declaring the ball. The thing that is toughest about a mistake like this is Connor on the back line shouting for Jake to stay on his side. It is encouraging, though, that we have backline guys seeing the floor and trying to communicate. This should be an easy fix.

Fronting the post

Kansas was the biggest team we’ve seen this year and will be good preparation for when we play other big teams like Utah State and Gonzaga. For most of the game, we tried to front the post. A decision like this requires at least one of two things: pressure on the ball to make the lob over the front harder or backside help to discourage the pass and disrupt it when it is thrown. At times we were pretty good with it.

Notice that Jake keeps his eye on the post action the whole time and can come and disrupt the pass when it comes. Unfortunately, we didn’t have this focus consistently throughout the game.

We got bailed out with a bad pass here but notice that everyone on the weak side takes their eyes off the ball as Kansas shifts and cuts. We need to do a better job of tracking both actions so that pass doesn’t get through. Being distracted by movement is one thing, but at times we just weren’t ready to rotate.

Even with Yoeli back in the lineup, I could see us fronting the post in the future. Given the adjustments and improvements this team has made so far this season, I’m optimistic that we’ll do better the next time around.

TJ is back

It seems like a long time ago that TJ was shooting 0-8 from three in Boise State and looking lost on offense. I’m not sure what it was, but he just didn’t look comfortable in our offense and a seemed little unsure about when and how to attack. All of that seems to be in the past. Where before he would kinda float off ball or just stand, he’s cutting a lot more to initiate action in the offense.

I really like how he senses the offense getting stagnant here, so he cuts through the lane to keep things moving. It doesn’t do anything here but it shows me that he’s thinking about it and building that habit and later he got a bucket from it.

I mentioned keeping the dribble alive earlier and connected to that is his renewed ability to get to the rim and finish. He was pretty good around the rim last year but had struggled to finish so far this season. Adding in one more extra dribble has helped in that. Watch how early he starts his gather in this clip:

After getting off the pump fake slowly he starts his gather at the free throw line giving up any advantage he had and allowing the defender to close the space. When the helping big comes over he has to float away from the basket a little to avoid being blocked. Now, look at the difference an extra dribble makes:

He keeps his advantage this time and instead of floating away from the hoop he’s able to get into the defender just a little bit before the quick release.

Fixing up his finishing wasn’t the story of Maui, though, it was his hot shooting from distance. Here’s his hot stretch against Virginia Tech:

After a nice drive where he doesn’t gather too early he lights it up from three. What stood out to me, though, was that all of these threes were catch and shoot. As I went through in a thread on twitter, coming into Maui almost all of his makes were off of the dribble and he was shooting abysmally on catch and shoots. Something clicked in Maui and he drastically improved his catch and shoot percentages. All these makes are also, for the most part, within the offense indicating to me that he’s finally gotten comfortable knowing how he fits into everything. Finally, one of the most impressive things I noticed was his trust in the offense. Right after going off he doesn’t hesitate to throw it in to Jake then get into our rip screen action.

We have a tendency to bail on these screens sometimes but he’s locked in and makes sure he gets a piece of Alex’s man (even if he does flop a little). The action goes elsewhere but I like that he’s locked into doing his part when he doesn’t have the ball.

Anticipating Yoeli’s return

This was the last week we played without Yoeli and I couldn’t help but think of how some things will look with him back on the floor. For example check out this play against Virginia Tech:

With that defender flat footed on the roll, the little lob pass is a good call. Not to knock on Kolby, because he’s done a very good job in Yo’s absence, but with Yoeli back rolling to the rim, this is an alley oop. Same principle goes here on this out of bounds under play:

Kolby does a good job changing pace to get to the front of the rim. Hopefully with Yoeli in TJ can throw this pass closer to the basket for a finish. Finally, here’s is a play call that I haven’t seen much this season but I think we’ll end up using with Yoeli quite a bit:

Moving the ball screen down to the corner creates a lot of space for the two man game to operate and Kolby does a nice job kicking it to the corner. The thought of that much space for Yoeli to operate and late help coming over has me excited for his debut Wednesday.