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BYU Basketball Film Study: Santa Clara and Gonzaga

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Brigham Young Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

After starting conference play with three straight weeks of 1-1 records, BYU hoops capped off it’s fourth week in a row of 2-0 play by surviving Santa Clara and out playing the number two team in the country. Here are a few things that helped BYU continue it’s hot streak and rise up the polls.

Jake pass back

Jake has a pretty good sized bag of tricks that he uses. I covered one of his favorite threes in a film study earlier in the year and saw another “trick” he likes to use in the Santa Clara game.

The concept of a give and go isn’t novel but his use of it here is a little unique. Step Curry does this a lot when he gets stuck in a situation where he’s picked up his dribble and Jake pulls it off to perfection. His pump fake gets the defender off of their feet and he immediately takes advantage of it to get a basket in a game that baskets were a little hard to come by at first.

Full court out of bounds sets

Closing out games requires on an ability to execute when the other team inevitably applies more pressure. Late in the Santa Clara game BYU went to a simple screen set to spring Alex loose and run off some clock before heading to the free throw line.

Most teams will try to switch everything in an effort to get a steal but TJ does a great job of screening his own man here, an effective counter to the switch. As a result Alex gets a ton of space and can waste clock.

Seeing how loose their switching was the first time, BYU ran a different look the next time they were in this inbounding situation.

This was a well-timed counter, set up by the previous possession. TJ’s man hangs back a little more this time so he doesn’t get screened off by TJ which opens up the deep route. Jake also engages a little bit of deception at the beginning of the clip by waving everyone in before he gets ready to inbound. BYU’s late game execution was great in this game and they were able to hit free throws to finish it off.

Rely on your horses

Santa Clara opted to switch almost everything, hug shooters, and let any two man actions run their course. This effectively challenged BYU to beat them one-on-one or two-on-two and led to a low amount of three point attempts. BYU’s big three was up to the challenge, though, scoring 70 of the team’s 85 points on the night. The only person outside the big three to score in the second half was Connor (4 points). Each player took turns carrying the team with Jake doing his work in the middle part of the second half, using post ups to draw fouls then his ability to drive and fake to keep points on the board.

Later it was TJ’s turn to carry the offense as he hit three of his patented mid-range jumpers and started to grow the lead.

TJ’s work and some Bronco misses set the stage for Yoeli to close things out after coming back after an extended stay on the bench with foul trouble.

Great teams have “shot makers” on them and it’s a luxury that this BYU team has three players comfortable in that role. Being able to balance the offense and give all three of them time to shine is a testament to the attitude of the players and the cohesiveness of this team.

Yoeli’s pump fake

Yoeli improved on what was already a strong low post skill set this year. His left hand jump hook is better and he seems more comfortable with his go-to moves. One of the things he used with great success last week was a pump fake that he usually got to after a spin.

His ability to stay balanced on the spin and gather allow him to get a quality look even after contact. All four of these attempts resulted in fouls which is huge for an undersized team. Yoeli’s ability to draw fouls also causes defenses to play less physical as the game goes on and let’s him be more effective.

Active hands

BYU’s defense held the Zags to 10 points under their season average and it all started with active hands. Often you can be in good position but unless you’re actively trying to be disruptive the offense can still make the play. Jake does a good job of that here.

He takes a good recovery angle to get back in front of his man here but it’s his arm and hands getting in the passing lane late that help create this turnover. Also notice the strong tag on the roll by Zac, another big key for the defense. This level of disruption was executed pretty consistently throughout the game and it wasn’t just one player. Look at how many swipes there are on this play.

My favorite part of this play is the fact that Yoeli wasn’t trying to necessarily looking to steal the ball. He simply was trying to be in the right place and discourage the pass and he ended up being rewarded for it. BYU ended the game with 15 deflections, tied for most in a game this season, and logged the first game all year with four people reaching three deflections or more.

Guards in ballscreens

Last week, the BYU guards struggled to consistently do their job on ballscreens, leading to a tight game against San Diego. Against Gonzaga the team was much better.

Alex times things up perfectly here, lunging into the space he has to get over the screen and not getting caught on it at all. This allows Kolby to not have to worry about the screen and quickly recover to a front on his rolling man. It wasn’t just Alex that was locked in either, here both he and Jake do a good job in the same possession of riding the offensive player high and over the screen.

Alex also does a great job of doing his work before the screen, totally disrupting Woolridge’s momentum and making his life easier when the screen came. BYU’s relentless effort on screens was huge in slowing down the Gonzaga offense and making them slightly more one dimensional.

Containing Woolridge

Ryan Woolridge is one of seven Gonzaga players averaging double figures this season and is a key piece of keeping the Gonzaga offense up tempo and moving. He had a pretty good game against BYU in Spokane, finishing with 11 points and 6 assists and really made the Cougars pay with his speed. Here he scores fairly easily after a made basket.

In Provo, the story was quite different. BYU’s defense was locked into him and didn’t allow him to have an impact in transition. Check out how Yoeli and Alex are zeroed in on Woolridge here with Connor coming to help as a trailer.

Preventing Woolridge from getting downhill was a big part of the defense’s success against Gonzaga and when he did get close to the paint, the help was there early and aggressively swarmed after the ball.

Woolridge finished with just 2 points on 0/2 from the field and an air-balled free throw. Rendering him a non factor was a huge success for the BYU defense.

TJ Pocket Passes

Sadly, the Marriott Center has seen it’s last TJ Haws assists. TJ was once again the engine driving the fluidity of the offense and finished the game with 8 assists, marking his third game in in a row with eight or more assists. A lot of his damage was done on empty side pick and roll actions where he was dropping dimes.

BYU terminated possessions with this empty side look a lot of times and over and over the Gonzaga help defender was late. TJ did a great job of creating an angle for his passes by getting downhill after the screen, something the other guards weren’t quite as effective with. Once that angle is created, though, it’s still a challenge to put the pass in the right place but TJ once again showed his passing acumen. I mean, look at the placement of this dump off to Kolby.

TJ places the pass where it can’t be touched, right at the foot of the defending big. It’s been a pleasure watching him orchestrate this offense and really make it hum, especially against high level competition.

Handling the double and early offense

Yoeli had a very efficient game, exploiting his single team post ups and making the right read on double teams. Gonzaga tried to double a few times but BYU’s offensive schemes helped Yoeli make the defense pay.

I really like how Zac doesn’t bail on the post feed even though Yoeli’s defender has it covered pretty well. Doubling from a post entry at the top is always hard and even though Yoeli ends up on the left block, Alex’s relocation puts immediate stress on the defense. Zac’s cut takes the first zoned up defender out of the play and makes it so that the other defender has to run all the way across the floor to contest.

BYU’s commitment to early offense also helped with the double. Within four seconds of this defensive rebound Yoeli has a catch on the block.

With every defender trying to get back in transition Kolby has a free run to the rim as the trailer.

The early offense was beneficial for ballscreen actions as well as the Zags got caught on their heels and unable to make our ballhandlers uncomfortable.

Jake is calling for the drag before he even gets to half court and the defense isn’t ready for his penetration. BYU kept putting pressure on Gonzaga to keep up with deep threes, crisp actions, and great pace. Coupled with the most consistent defensive effort they’ve shown all year and despite a hard surge in the second half, BYU was able to pull off the upset and lock in their place in the NCAA Tournament field.