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BYU Basketball Film Study: Pepperdine

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 15 BYU at Houston Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another week and another win as the Cougar Cagers capped of the regular season with a victory over Pepperdine. Let’s take a look at some of the things that helped BYU overcome a slow start and come away with their ninth win in a row.

Jake pump fakes

Jake continues to find ways to torture opponents with his long range prowess. He came into the Pepperdine game after going 5/9 from three against Gonzaga with many of his shots coming well behind the arc. The Waves did a pretty good job limiting him with aggressive defense but his use of a pump fake helped him go 3/3 from downtown. Look at how urgent his defender is to get to his shot even though he is well behind the line.

Pepperdine was very physical with Jake in the post and under the arc which created this look from three as BYU ran a counter to their usual slice screen that gets Jake a catch on the block. Jake has been shooting well all season so it wasn’t a surprise that Pepperdine wanted to run him off the line. He did a great job of finding ways to generate quality attempts and not force things. Here he’s very much in control after getting a kick out on an offensive rebound.

Jake was limited to two attempts less than his season average but his effectiveness with his pump fake helped him take advantage of every one of those attempts.

Feinting on defense

Defense is a cat and mouse game in many ways. Sometimes you can provide effective help defense by simply acting like you are crashing hard then backing off, forcing the offensive player to feel the need to adjust and make their own shot harder. BYU was able to do that on multiple occasions in Malibu and it proved pretty effective. Check out how TJ takes a hard angle here then kinda gets out of the way.

TJ’s initial aggressiveness and slight swipe end up making the offensive player take a shot that is much more difficult than it probably should have been. Yoeli did the same later in the game, loading up like he was going to contest hard at the rim and contributing to a fadeaway.

BYU’s ability to coerce Pepperdine into tough attempts without fouling kept Pepperdine off the free throw line and prevented them from getting easy points and cutting into the lead. This kind of cat and mouse game doesn’t always work against better teams but it got the job done last week.

Relying too much on help

It has been a strength of this team to selectively be aggressive on defense and rely on the help behind them and for the most part the’ve done a great job of covering for each other in rotations. A few times, though, this reliance led to BYU defenders being a little too relaxed and not quite urgent enough.

TJ and Yoeli got a little turned around in this scramble situation which leads to Yo thinking he doesn’t have to recover as quickly because he thinks TJ is sticking around to switch back. If he went ahead and recovered with more urgency BYU may have been able to prevent this dunk. TJ similarly could have done a better job of shutting down the baseline in this play.

After a nice under control closeout I feel like he could have taken care of this drive himself and eliminate the need for Yoeli to come help. Things like this are somewhat nit-picky since they do result from the trust this team has in each other but I’m sure they’ve already been addressed as this team is constantly looking to improve.

Handling probe dribbles

Colbey Ross is the Wave’s leading scorer and loves to probe around with the dribble to open up opportunities for himself or others. BYU did a great job in those situations of bothering him with aggressive help.

Zac does a great job here getting his hand on the ball and forcing a turnover, one of Ross’ five for the day. This aggressive help was pretty consistent all game and though not always leading to a turnover, neutralized Ross.

Yoeli does a great job to attack Ross’ dribble here and force him backwards, allowing Alex to recover and the defense to reset. Ross ended the day with only eight points.

Running the guard over instead of through

Many of BYU’s actions on offense end up with the ball being turned and the first offensive player back cutting his man while the second comes up from the corner to a dribble hand off. At times BYU will run a variant where instead of backcutting through the lane, the first guard will run high above the arc to clear out. This action worked well in getting us to an empty side to work with.

By going over the top, the bottom defender is now lifted. In this clip, had Connor back cut like normal his man could stop in the paint and be there to handle the roll. With Connor going over the top his defender ends up having to run over from the opposite elbow, a hard rotation that leads to a foul.

BYU ran this variant often against Pepperdine with varying results. Here they don’t quite get the space they’re looking for because of the personnel on the floor.

Since Gavin is a non shooter, his man can feel free to hang in the paint and provide extra help. Gavin also could have lifted up earlier to try and entice his man out of the play quicker but with him coming up as late as he did, the defender could easily sag off. Pepperdine also did a good job of adjusting their defense to let the big helping on the handoff switch up to the top player.

Another thing that prevented us from getting the look we wanted was the pace and determination to get downhill.

Notice here that we’ve countered Pepperdine’s adjustment by having Zac spaced out really wide at first. However, TJ isn’t as aggressive here in coming off the handoff with pace and Yoeli isn’t particularly aggressive in his roll either, allowing Pepperdine time to have Connor’s man slide into help. A few possessions later we remedied that with much better pace on the roll after TJ got the big to bite.

Pepperdine tries to pre rotate with Kolby’s man hanging off but with Yoeli being decisive and able to knock down the floater, it’s a bucket. It was impressive to see BYU run this action then be able to respond to Pepperdine’s adjustment by being more crisp in their movement.

A “good shoulder” revisited

A few weeks ago we covered what a “good shoulder” was when it comes to post offense. Against Pepperdine there was a nuance that was revealed regarding this technique. Early in the game Yoeli was whistled for an offensive foul when he went to use his “good shoulder” against his defender.

He hasn’t been called on plays like this before but I can see why the referee made the call here. Instead of using his shoulder on a turn it was more a gather towards the rim on this possession. Later in the game he avoided the call by making sure he was actually turning more on his gather instead of leaning into his defender.

The amount of space he is able to generate here is a perfect example of what happens when you execute this technique correctly. Pepperdine’s defenders just were not physical enough to keep him out of his rhythm.

Points in the paint

BYU put up 52 points in the paint against the Waves as they opted to single team all post catches. Yoeli, in turn, was able to show his full repertoire of moves and scored in a variety of ways with his back to the basket. I really liked the footwork, progression, and pace he showed on this possession.

After trying out the rip through that he draws a lot of fouls on he executes a nice quick spin to get a slight advantage before finishing off with his pump fake to get the defender off balance and scoring on an easy jump hook.

Later he took advantage of how much he’d been banging in the post to go to a quick hook.

The risk you run when you don’t double team Yoeli is allowing him to dictate the pace of the post up. He has so many tools to go to and this quick hook, when executed at his pace, is a perfect counter to the defender constantly bracing for contact with his chest. Yoeli feasted all game but he wasn’t the only one. Zac also continued to show his comfort in the post when the occasion presented itself.

I’ve mentioned it before but I’m continuously impressed by the work this staff has done to enable each of our guys to be comfortable with their back to the basket. This was Zac’s only post up of the game but it’s a pretty slick move to hesitate like he’s going to the spin back and then step through. Zac’s effectiveness in the post shows the kind of damage any of our “bigs” can do if you let them go at their own pace. BYU’s ability to thrive in the paint and keep the offense multidimensional bodes well as more and more teams may be comfortable with them scoring twos instead of threes.