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BYU Basketball Film Study: Saint Mary’s and Portland

Brigham Young v Saint Mary’s Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

BYU found themselves in familiar territory last week as they had to play without Yoeli Childs again, after losing him to a finger dislocation. After dropping the game at Saint Mary’s they rebounded nicely by blowing out Portland. Check out some of the strategy, adjustments, and tweaks they showed during last week’s games.

Guarding Fitts

Malik Fitts is Saint Mary’s de facto second option behind Jordan Ford and containing him has been an issue for BYU in the past. The Gaels try to get Fitts a variety of looks from pick and pops to post ups so BYU went to a switching scheme to prevent him from getting any open shots from three. To counter, SMC started looking for him in the post.

Notice how Dalton and TJ switch even on a slip so there’s no confusion to try and let TJ stay with his man. TJ does a good job standing his ground, everyone else helps down, and Fitts takes a falling away jump hook. Our guards have done well in the post most of the year and it’s given us the flexibility to get away with defenses like this. It’s not just TJ either — Alex similarly forced a fadeaway later in the game.

Fitts ended up scoring 17 points, but wasn’t that efficient, shooting around 30% from the field.

End of half execution

It seems that BYU struggles to close out halves more often than not and that habit reared its ugly head again in Moraga.

After a turnover where TJ drives into traffic, we proceeded to turn it over again when we can’t get Jake a catch on his usual slice cut play. I’d like to see Jake use more misdirection on that slice play rather than just run off of the screen. This time he doesn’t shake his defender at all, leading to a deflection. He could stop then start to change pace or even take a step towards the free throw line then slide down to the post — really anything to change the pace on his defender.

Fortunately we fixed this against Portland, executing two quality sets to end a very productive first half

Jake does a way better job setting up his man and gets a bucket as a result. Then we get Dalton a look right at the rim. Great execution on a play that we’ve been using more recently. That second play also has some really nice things about the design. The misdirection is a nice touch with both Dalton and Jake signaling a screen. Then it’s a roll and replace principle but in a really tight space. I like how we end up using the defender who is helping on the ball screen as almost a second pick for Jake. When Jake’s defender realizes he needs to get out to him it leaves Dalton wide open on the roll. A nice design that we used quite a bit last week and will probably see more options with in the future.

Crash the glass

Overall I think this BYU team has done well dealing with its challenges rebounding the ball. You can tell that they are paying a lot of attention to rebounding but they still lapse in actually doing what it takes to secure the glass. Watch each player in this play against Saint Mary’s:

Every single player turns to track the ball, but only Dalton actually makes contact with someone. The result is a tip out for an offensive rebound that they capitalized on with a three. Saint Mary’s ended up with 11 offensive rebounds, which is huge in a close game. Getting more consistent in this record will continue to elevate this team, especially as they play another stretch without Yoeli.

Jake adjusting on drives

The Gaels hugged up on our shooters in the game and you can tell that our game plan was to attach them off of the dribble as a result. Unfortunately we weren’t generating many quality looks at first, as we got used to the physicality and flow of the game. Jake struggled to get decent looks as he tried to use finesse too much.

As the game went on and he got more comfortable he realized he didn’t have to try and finish on the run but could take his time to get comfortable. As a result, he ended up driving into a backdown and utilizing his jump hook.

It ended up being a great adjustment as he was much more effective in the second half and showed why we went to a penetrating type of game plan.

TJ adjustments on drives

TJ also struggled at first to get anything going on his drives as Saint Mary’s used a nice blend of physicality at first before backing off and letting him make his shot harder than it probably could have been.

TJ ends up with a little more space than he probably expected on two of these clips and it leads to some shots that seem to be lacking rhythm.

As the game wore on he did a great job of adjusting. He took extra dribbles to make more powerful moves, challenged the helping big more, and was more forceful getting to the rim than he was earlier in the game.

Notice how he manipulates the helping big in the first two clips, pump faking to draw the foul, then hesitating to get to the rim. With the way Saint Mary’s was playing all he had to do was something to get that big off kilter and he was great at it. The coaching staff also helped him out by popping his screener almost every time and opening up a ton of space on the interior.

The importance of the roll

Saint Mary’s limited us to our lowest amount of makes from three all season. Part of that was our dedication to exploiting them on the drive rather then try to force our usual actions and part of it was their scheme. They stayed close to our guards on the perimeter and as much as possible they shaded towards the roll to discourage us from hitting it and then getting into our kick out game.

The bottom defender is all the way under the basket even though Alex is in the corner and the big is using a retreating show to make sure he can both challenge TJ coming off and recover to the roll. We end up beating the defense here with the right pass to the corner but didn’t get looks like this much at all. Against Portland, though, we were able to exploit the roll consistently.

We run the same action that we ran against Saint Mary’s but this time the bottom defender only has one foot in the paint and the big isn’t retreating but going with a more traditional flat show. TJ makes them pay with a slick pass to Kolby for an easy bucket. Portland did not do as well handling the roll and were constantly late to the big, resulting in a lot of layups. Had they recovered quickly, I think we would have seen even more open threes.

Keeping it fresh on offense

This staff continues to keep defenses guessing. Part of that is implementing new plays like the one I mentioned above but another part is adding wrinkles to plays that we already have. We’ve run the following play many times, often just trying to get Jake’s defender to help on the UCLA screen so we can hit Jake on the pop.

I’m not sure the last time we hit the cutter on the UCLA screen, but it’s a nice option that opens up because Jake’s man is locked into preventing a three.

Another wrinkle I noticed was in the play we use to get Jake catches on the block. We started using the counter of having Jake come off a little down screen to get a look at a three.

We don’t quite have the timing and feel for it right yet but it’s a good option to pull out after running the play for catches on the block over and over. Jake could have stopped his cut a little earlier and the pass could have been thrown earlier as well and I think he would have gotten an open three. Still, you can tell that this staff is embracing what they preach to their players about constantly improving and getting better each day.