Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A photographic breakdown of Georgetown's pick and roll defense

For the third straight game, Louisville overcame a double digit second half deficit, taking a 55-53 lead with 4:24 left on a free throw from Kyle Kuric. That lead didn't last, however, as Peyton Siva was unable to bail out the Cardinals down the stretch again. Hollis Thompson hit a tie-breaking three with 2:03 left and the Hoyas hit their free throws at the end of the game as they won their fifth straight in Big East play, 62-59.

Chris Wright bounced back from a scoreless performance at Villanova, going 8-14 from the field and finishing with 24 points, five boards, and three assists. Austin Freeman added 13 (although he also turned the ball over six times) and Julian Vaughn gutted through a bad ankle to score 10 points, including a number of tough buckets in the post down the stretch, to go along with five boards and three blocks.

The stat that you are probably going to hear about the most from this game was the 76.5% that Georgetown shot in the second half. Rightfully so. The Hoyas looked terrific on the offensive end in the second half, especially when they were able to beat Louisville's press.

But it was the Hoya's defense that won this game, not their offensive execution.

Georgetown held Peyton Siva, who came into this game as hot as any player in the country, to just five points, three assists, and eight turnovers. Preston Knowles, Louisville's leading scorer, finished just 3-14 from the floor. As a team, Louisville shot 35.1% from the field and 34.8% from three. When Louisville struggles to score, they have a tough time getting into their press which, in turn, makes the Cardinals a much easier team to beat.

What Louisville likes to do offensively, especially when it gets to be late in the shot clock, is to run a guard off of a high ball screen and spread the floor with three shooters. They have different variations and different reads, but essentially what Rick Pitino is looking to do is to get a one-on-one situation in the middle of the floor, whether it is Siva attacking with the dribble or Terrence Jennings sealing in the post. Louisville used that high ball screen when Siva scored the game-winner against West Virginia. They used it almost exclusively down the stretch against UConn, when the Huskies were incapable of keeping Siva out of the paint.

Georgetown won because they were able to stop it.

Against UConn, when Siva came off the screen, UConn tried to hedge the screen hard, but Alex Oriakhi wasn't able to stop Siva from turning the corner:

With two shooters posted on the strong side of the floor, UConn defender Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith were late rotating to help, and since Oriakhi was trailing the play, there was no shot blocker inside. Jeremy Lamb wasn't able to rotate down and protect the rim soon enough (he, too, was guarding a shooter) and the result was a layup from Siva:

Georgetown played the screen differently. Since the Cardinals run it so high, Julian Vaughn -- who is a good defender in the pick-and-roll -- hedged the screen softly:

Vaughn kept Siva from getting a lane to the rim. Also notice where Nate Lubick is in the second picture (below). He rotates down to prevent Siva from dropping the ball off the Terrence Jennings for a layup. Vee Sanford recovers, and Siva is forced to kick the ball out to Preston Knowles:

Wright is able to stay with Knowles, who swings the ball to Kuric. As the ball is swung, Lubick rotates back out to challenge Kyle Kuric's three while Vaughn rotates back to pick up Jennings in the paint:

Unfortunately, Lubick challenged the three point attempt to aggressively and fouled Kuric, which is obviously a mistake. But up until that point, Georgetown defended this possession perfectly.

Siva is becoming Louisville's most important player. He is exceptionally quick with the ball in his hands and is such a difficult matchup for a big man to stay in front of. With three shooters on the perimeter, the onus falls on the big man defending the screener to slow down Siva, and all night long Vaughn was able to do that.

Georgetown's ability to stop Louisville's pick-and-roll is what won the game for the Hoyas tonight.

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