FILM ROOM: Dissecting Iowa State’s defensive struggles at Texas


I’m not usually one to rewatch games. I know that probably isn’t the best thing to admit in my line of work but it’s true. Once I know the outcome of a game, I generally don’t like to watch it again. 

I made an exception with Tuesday night’s Texas Longhorn win over the Iowa State Cyclones. So not only did I know the outcome, I knew it was not going to end in the way I wanted it to.

Add in the absolute lack of functionality of the Watch ESPN site and it led to a real headache. 

That headache became a migraine once I found what I was looking for in this game. I was looking for the Cyclones’ defensive breakdowns and trying to think of something that can help solve their problems. 

I’ve picked four different areas on defense that I believe could be easily corrected and I’ve gathered a series of vines to accompany each point. 

Let’s step on in to the film room. 

1 — The biggest issue I saw for the Cyclones was their struggles when trying to defend the pick and roll. 

Teams have started to use P&R more and more against the Cyclones as their struggles have continued to be uncovered. On Tuesday night, the problems generally weren’t with stopping the guy with the basketball. 

More often than not, the problems came after the pass. Guys weren’t reacting quickly enough and rotations were subsequently suffering.

In the first clip you’ll see Connor Lammert setting the screen for Texas’ Isaiah Taylor. Monte Morris is defending Taylor, and Jameel McKay is on Lammert.

The first thing I take issue with on this play is the way both players let Taylor sit back and make a decision slowly. I would like to see Morris get up into the ball handlers face a little bit more in order to try and speed up his game.

The second problem is McKay’s recovery. He is step too slow with his closeout and doesn’t get a hand up until Lammert has already started his shot. It can be tough to make that recovery quickly, but it’s something that McKay has to do if he wants to be on the floor.

In the next clip Georges Niang is guarding Lammert off of a pick and pop. 

This is another situation in which I would like to see more pressure on the ball handler. Lammert’s ball fake essentially freezes Niang flat footed, and that is one of the worst situations you can put yourself in defensively.

Speaking Niang and isolations…

2 — Teams are starting to isolate Niang defensively. There were several situations against the Longhorns in which they ran a particular play in order to get Niang in a one-on-one situation. Just like they see him as a mismatch on offense, he is becoming one on defense.

In this one Niang does a nice job of bodying up to allow his help side to get there, but he draws a foul in the process. The foul troubles have become something Niang has had to deal with in a couple games in a row, and this likely has played a huge part in it.

McKay also can’t be hugging his guy on the back side, essentially taking away all of Niang’s help. 

3 —Penetration into the lane has probably been the topic mentioned the most by people on my Twitter, and I understand why. The Longhorns were superb in drawing the defense into the lane, before kicking it out and knocking down a 3-pointer. 

Taylor is especially adept at this. 

In this clip, Abdel Nader bites on a fake and give Taylor just enough space to get a step on him. That one step is huge as it forces Deonte Burton, Matt Thomas and Morris all to help. 

That’s a lot of guys to guard just one. The Cyclones aren’t very strong in their gaps on help side, and as long as that continues it’s going to be really hard to keep people out of the lane.

You’re just leaving yourself open to get run over when you leave the kill spot in the middle of the lane vulnerable, though.

4 —The last thing I noticed is one of the most simple, and easily corrected, fundamentals in defensive basketball. That’s closeouts

I’m also going to group that with having a hand up in a shooters face when they have the ball on the perimeter. Thomas falls victim to it first. 

Thomas put a hand up, but it was late. He needs to closeout hard with his hands high, and then keep a hand up while he is defending. 

During the second half it was Morris. 

He did get better as the game went on, but it still wasn’t quite at the level it needed to be.

The last two came on back-to-back possessions during the second half. Iowa State had tied the game at 79 with about three and a half minutes to play. Then poor contests on consecutive 3-pointers, and all of a sudden it’s a six point game again.

These are all correctable mistakes, and I 100 percent guarantee the Iowa State coaching staff has shown these guys a lot more film than this in order to prove it’s time to make changes. 

They know they need to pick up the defensive intensity. They know they need to make changes in order to get back into this Big 12 race. 

One of the best ways to fix mistakes is to see the ones you made in the past in the same situations. The film room really comes in handy, even if Watch ESPN does stink.

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.

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