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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Looking Back at Marist

In our continuing effort to get a good understanding of what good and bad is going on in game situations with the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, we'll look at an example of poor defense that Marist executed against the Wildcats several times during the first half.

The play we are going to look at today was a simple pick and roll play, something that Kentucky is running with regularity. Only this time, we'll be looking at the defense of a pick and roll, and where Kentucky broke down and allowed the play to end successfully with a basket.

This particular play happened fairly early in the first half when Marist was repeatedly answering Kentucky baskets on the offensive end.

Pick and roll defense vs. Marist

1) D1 is Doron Lamb, D2 Darius Miller, D3 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, D4 Terrence Jones, and D5 Eloy Vargas.

Marist executes a weave handoff on the left wing. O2 and O1 exchange positions. Miller goes with his man, and Lamb goes with his.  Note the good spacing by the Marist offense.

2) O2 now has the ball, Darius Miller defending him. O5 moves out to around the free throw line.  This is similar to a Dribble Drive Motion setup, only the 5 is not on the block, but he is on the weak side.

3) O5 comes over and sets a high pick for O2. Vagas comes with him to the left side of Miller (D2). When that happens, two problems crop up -- 1) you have to know whether you are switching pick and rolls, or fighting over them, and 2) you have to understand your own man can make the pick more effective, which it did, in this case.


4) O2 accepts the pick and drives left. Miller goes under the screen and Vargas takes O2, but unfortunately, Miller does not switch to Vargas' man.

This is the point at which the error was made. By watching earlier plays, it seemed clear that Cal was not switching his pick and rolls, prefering to have defenders fight over the screen. If that's the case, Miller's mistake was going under the pick .

What happened here is that we got caught not knowing what to do. Either Miller should have taken O5, or Vargas should have. As it turns out, for a moment, both Miller and Vargas were guarding, but not trapping O2.  That freed a path to the basket for O5

O5 rolls to the basket unimpeded. Lamb is closest, but he stays with the 3-point shooter, a veteran play. Jones is the logical help defender, but he is out of position, too far away from the basket. He should be halfway in between, and the play had plenty of time to develop for him to know what was happening.

5) O5 is now wide open under the basket, and receives the pass from O2 Vargas finally rotates back to his man, but way too late. Jones and Kidd-Gilchrist rush toward the basket to help and rebound, leaving two open shooters.

Jones was okay doing what he did, but Kidd-Gilchrist came in too far. He should not have lost touch with his man in case of an offensive rebound and kickout.  He should have stayed just around the foul line for the long rebound or to rotate back on defense.  We had 3 other guys under the basket.

6) Notice the crowd around the painted area. Lamb is the only player still covering his man.

This play was a failure in a number of ways.  #1, we didn't seem to know for sure whether we were switching on P&R, or not.  Vargas switched, and Miller didn't.  If you have that confusion on pick and roll plays, you'll get scored on almost every time.

Second, our defensive spacing was wrong.  Weak side defenders should hedge toward the basket so they can help in case of a breakdown, but in this case, Jones was playing lazy and reacted very slowly to the obvious play.  Must have been that late night he had.

Another thing Vargas could have done was jam the pick, and let Miller go over or under.  That's where communication comes in.  What you do when you jam the pick is that Vargas would have set up right against the pick.  Miller could have gone over or under, but the roll would have been impeded by Vargas.  Help would have had to come from Jones if the dribbler had attacked the rim, because Vargas would not have been able to recover in time. 

You have to call out a pick and roll defense, though, so your teammate knows what to do if the coach hasn't called a blanket P&R defense like a switch.  For my money, I think we should switch all pick and rolls because we have such good size and athleticism.

Finally, you can't leave open three-point shooters and charge the basket with abandon like this.  Kidd-Gilchrist forgot all about the other players to charge in and help where none was needed -- UK already had 3 guys around the basket, and he made recovery to an open shooter impossible if 05 had fumbled the pass and was forced to pass.  Lamb played his man correctly, and Jones did rotate, which left MKG as the last line of defense against a kickout.

From all this, we can see that UK has a ways to go defensively, and that's a point that coach cal will be making to them over and over again in the coming weeks.  If we play the pick and roll like this against Kansas, we'll be in trouble.