Iowa State’s close loss to West Virginia on Tuesday night left little to be desired and proved to be another “moral victory”. It’s safe to say the season hasn’t gone as planned and it has become increasingly difficult to find silver linings hidden within a COVID-riddled season that has brought few and far between bright moments.
However, I did see some things I liked down the stretch on Tuesday night. I thought the Clones played hard and did some things well. Below is a collection of observations I had while re-watching the last few sequences:
The above play was my favorite of the season. After initial confusion on who the play was being run for, the Clones are able to get lined up and send Jaden Walker curling over a screen, which acts as misdirection as he jabs, sweeps, and drives towards the baseline. Meanwhile, Solomon Young pushes his man up the lane to clear space underneath the basket and force the West Virginia weakside man to step into the lane to prevent a layup. Walker reads the defense and makes the correct pass to Tyler Harris for the wide open corner 3. This is excellent play design and is predicated on timing: watch how Darlinstone Dubar (55) waits a split second then fills to the left of Walker as he begins his drive. This takes yet another West Virginia player out of the picture and puts the help side defender on an island to protect the paint.
Next, you see Jaden Walker screen for Rasir Bolton in order to get Rasir running downhill. West Virginia blows this up thanks to superb individual defense to fight through a screen that needs to be set with more authority, but the play design is simple enough: Put your most explosive ball handler into a downhill screen, force the defense to switch (ideally) and put your best 3 point shooter in the same corner to prevent another defender sagging off. Credit Rasir for turning nothing into something, but think about this play as you watch the next GIF.
Look familiar? That’s because it’s the same play going the opposite direction. Walker comes up to set a screen, hoping to force a switch and get Bolton going downhill, but the screen is neither a slip nor a true screen or decoy. My guess is that Walker didn’t want to initiate contact after Bolton had already started going and backed out to prevent the illegal screen call. Now watch Solo as all of this is happening: He isn’t able to push his man up the lane quite as much as he did previously AND didn’t even create a seal to receive a pass should Bolton need to dish it. Credit West Virginia once again as they didn’t get beat on or off the ball on the “screen” or the seal. Solo pushes his man into Bolton, they collide, and Iowa State drops another one.
In hindsight, all three plays utilize the principle of clearing out the lane for a primary ball handler and forcing the defense to make decisions at different levels. The first play worked due to excellent timing and execution, the second worked as a result of Rasir Bolton bailing out a blown up play, and the third was a disaster on all accounts.
Steve Prohm has rightfully received a ton of flak this year, but I thought he at least put his guys in a position to win down the stretch. The issue here is that he no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt, and as the season trudges towards a disappointing end, Jamie Pollard will have a decision to make regarding Prohm’s future very soon.