Rewind - Iowa
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There was only one Illinois game this week, and ultimately that was fitting. A game with the hype and importance of Illinois v Iowa for the only time in Big Ten regular season play deserved its singularity. And man was it worth the wait. This prime time Friday night game of the week lived up to every last bit of the hype. 22 lead changes, 8 ties, and an outcome that wasn't decided until the final 5 seconds. Oh yeah - and we won - making that 10 day wait leading up to this game oh so worth it. This one had a little bit of everything and a lot to break down, so let's get to it. Roll tape...
In last week's Rewind, we talked a bit about the prevailing strategy for defending Ayo Dosunmu. Specifically - make him go left. Another tack we've seen teams use in man to man defense is simply to try to get the ball out of his hands. One good way to accomplish this is with an aggressive double team off of ball screens. Penn State had some success with this the other night - holding Ayo to just 13 points.
So how does Iowa start this game? By doing neither of these things. Their first thought was to play him straight up with a freshman starting his first ever game. The results were...predictable. Ayo gets to his right hand and blows by Keegan Murray rather easily on the very first possession of the game.
And again - before we even hit the first media timeout. One starts to get an idea of why the Hawkeyes struggle on defense.
Eventually they realized a different approach was necessary and switched primarily to a 1-3-1 match-up zone. It was somewhat effective early on - with Iowa pulling the middle line of their zone up to the free throw line, making it tough to get the ball to the center of the floor. On this possession the ball never leaves the perimeter.
But every defense has a weakness, and the weakness of the 1-3-1 lies in the corners. For starters, you can get the ball into the middle from a "low to high" angle instead of the more traditional "high to low" angle. Watch here as the simple act of passing the ball to the corner sucks the zone deeper toward the baseline and allows Jacob Grandison to find an opening in the middle of the floor.
Also, the 1-3-1 is ESPECIALLY vulnerable to the corner three. When you overload one side of the floor - as we do here - the opposite corner tends to pop wide open. Sometimes it's just this easy...
We torched the Iowa zone with basically this same action for six corner threes - including the most important basket of the game - this triple from Grandison which immediately followed a Joe Weiskamp three that had given Iowa a lead just seconds earlier...
Trent Frazier had without question his best offensive game of the season with 24 points on 8 of 13 shooting. He was 4/9 from three, but he also had four two point field goals after coming into the game having made only 11 two point shots all season. He got some help from his friends in doing so - specifically from his big men sealing off the low block and clearing a path to the basket. The post seal is basically an off ball screen that prevents potential help defenders from protecting the rim. Much like a pick play in football, it's technically illegal to initiate contact while setting such a screen. However, if done well, it's disguised as merely blocking out for a potential rebound and often overlooked by the officials. On this play, Trent gets help from Kofi - who simply gets in the way of a rather uninterested Luka Garza.
Subtle, but effective. Here's another post seal to give Trent an easy path to the rim - this time from Giorgi.
Much less subtle, but equally as effective.
Finally let's take a look at how we defended Iowa's final two possessions. One that resulted in a wide open three for Jordan Bohannon, and one that ended with him forced into taking a closely contested three. The difference is all in the switch. On the first possession, Frazier and Kofi switch the ball screen from Garza. It worked initially as Trent is able to prevent Garza from receiving the pass on the pick and pop. However, Iowa plays the secondary action really well. Garza quickly runs to the low post - preventing Trent and Kofi from being able to switch back. This leaves Kofi on Bohannon, and one quick ball reversal gets him the ball back with plenty of space to shoot.
We were then called for a controversial five count on our ensuing inbounds play - giving Iowa a chance to tie. They run a similar play to the previous possession, but this time we don't switch and Trent is able to get over the screen on the dribble hand off and force Bohannon into an off-balance heave which misses badly.
It's here that we should remind everyone that Trent Frazier is arguably the best on-ball defender in the Big Ten - regardless of what any Naismith DPOY midseason watch list says.
OK, let's do one more - mainly because I want to give a shout out to our fearless leader Robert who likes to pretend he doesn't know anything about basketball. He had the nuance of Kofi's offensive rebound off his free throw miss pegged. DMW forces Nunge to commit to him and allows Kofi an easy lane to the ball. (Iowa also forgot the cardinal rule of free throw defense - "I GOT SHOOTER!") I'm cribbing this straight from Robert's Twitter feed - because he describes the play just about perfectly.
Nice work boss.