Dec 8, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes guard Peter Jok (14) controls the ball as Iowa State Cyclones guard Deonte Burton (30) defends during the second half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa won 78-64. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
I’m not really a negative person by nature. In most situations, I try to find a positive way to look at things.
During Iowa State’s loss to Iowa last week, I couldn’t find much to think positively about. Sure, Iowa State played better in the second half, but that came after they played one of their worst stretches in quite some time during the first half.
Every time I tried to pull a positive, I’d remember one of the negatives and override it. This didn’t really improve when I went back to rewatch the game in preparation for this year’s first film column.
That’s why many of the clips I’m about to break down were negative. It isn’t that I’m trying to tear down the team, but they’re the plays and scenarios that jumped out to me as impactful.
With that said, let’s get to our first clip.
This was Iowa State’s first possession of the game against Iowa. The Cyclones’ initial action is to run a triple screen along the baseline to get an open shot for Naz Mitrou-Long.
Iowa’s Peter Jok goes over the top of the screens in order to cut off any pass to Mitrou-Long in the corner.
First, this is good scouting by Jok. You can tell he’s seen this play before and executed how Iowa wanted to defend it. Secondly, in a play like this at least one of those Iowa State players needs to figure out a way to make some sort of contact with Jok.
In this situation, the screen doesn’t need to immobilize him, it needs to slow him down enough to create a look for Mitrou-Long.
Nonetheless, after the action it is stopped. The Cyclones essentially go into “make-a-play” mode by using the high pick-and-pop to create a face-up situation with Deonte Burton.
Burton attacks downhill, gets a piece of the paint, which draws a help defender, to make a kick-out pass to Matt Thomas for an open 3-pointer.
Plays like this are what makes Iowa State’s offense so deadly at times. When the team’s best playmakers (Burton, Monte Morris, Thomas, Mitrou-Long) are attacking and reaching the lane it often creates open shots for those guys spotting up along the perimeter.
The problems come when those guys aren’t attacking…
This play came on the Cyclones’ first possession of the second half. Iowa State had grabbed an offensive rebound right before this situation and a foul set up the baseline out of bounds.
Thomas catches the ball at the top of the key and gets the screen from Burton. Thomas makes the right initial read by curling off the screen after seeing his man is trailing behind.
At this point, Thomas has several different options. He can continue to drive towards the basket in hopes of drawing either Merrill Holden or Morris’ defenders in help-side. This could open up a lob opportunity at the rim for Holden or an open 3-pointer for Morris.
Instead, Thomas pulls up from one step inside the arc with 28 seconds left on the shot clock. This is probably a look Iowa State could get at anytime during the game, especially considering Burton didn’t really set a great screen to set it up.
This is what it looks like when Iowa State’s guards drive hard towards the paint.
Now, Thomas didn’t make the shot, but it was an open look he’ll knock down more often than not. Mitrou-Long was able to draw four defenders towards the rim after he got both of his feet into the painted area.
Even if it is defended well, forcing the defenders to move into help side can create scramble opportunities you can exploit. On this play, Thomas could even pass up the shot to make one extra pass to a wide-open Morris.
Getting into the lane, attacking downhill and kicking the ball out puts so much more pressure on the defense than constantly hunting jump shots off the dribble.
On this possession, the Cyclones are able to create a little bit of movement with some drive and kick before Donovan Jackson gets the ball with about 13 seconds on the shot clock. This would probably be a good situation for a high ball screen looking to get something going towards the rim.
Jackson tries to attack off the dribble in isolation before shooting a tough shot falling away at the elbow. The rebound goes a little long and allows Nicholas Baer to grab the ball running down the middle of the floor with a full head of steam.
At this point, Iowa State’s number one objective should be to stop the ball. Jackson looks to be running towards his man as Baer runs right past him and then two others before laying the ball in the hoop through a foul.
Flat-out, nobody, especially a big man, should be able to go straight through your defense without somebody stopping the ball. This play sparked Iowa’s first big run of the game.
This is Iowa State’s next possession after Baer finished off the and-one. Morris and Darrell Bowie are able to get the ball across the half-court line, but run into trouble once Bowie picks up his dribble.
Usually, you probably wouldn’t want Bowie, someone that doesn’t really handle the ball in the backcourt a ton, bringing the ball across half court into a trap. At this point in the game, the Cyclones were in a bit of foul trouble and the lineup on the floor reflected that.
The Cyclones had been hurt in a similar situation early in the game when Morris brought the ball across the line, had nobody to outlet to in the middle of the floor and was forced to call a timeout.
Both of the other guards were down towards the wings and pretty much unavailable to help against those traps. In the end, Iowa State was able to get a timeout on that play and keep the possession alive.
On the play later in the game, the second Bowie got across half court he should’ve had a guard there ready to get the ball from him as fast as possible. Instead of ending in a timeout, Iowa’s three-point lead was very quickly stretched to eight.
The Hawkeyes’ success early in the game was also a product of their ability to run in transition. Iowa proved early on they weren’t afraid to push the tempo in any situation, including off of a made basket.
On this play, Iowa State was able to get a good look and mid-range jumper for Thomas. Instead of sprinting back to the other end quickly, the Cyclones’ defense floats back allowing an Iowa wing to gain a step in transition.
Iowa State is slow to recover and it results in an early foul for Thomas. The Cyclones were much better at stopping Iowa in transition later in the game, but the Hawkeyes’ ability to run early helped set the tone for a lot of the game.
Iowa State has been most successful this season when they’ve been able to get out in transition themselves. A big part of Steve Prohm’s desire to play faster this season was getting his big men to run rim-to-rim on every possession.
All three of the Cyclones’ primary forwards have done well with that during the non-conference slate, but it hasn’t directly resulted in many baskets. In the play above, Solomon Young is the first man down the floor by quite a ways.
Jackson appears to be looking crosscourt rather than downcourt at an essentially wide open Young. Even once the play gets lower along the floor, Young slams on the breaks and gets great position with his man high-side and no help defense.
There were multiple opportunities for really good looks at the rim in this sequence, but Young didn’t touch the ball. Those plays are the ones that truly motivate big men to sprint every time down the floor.
On Friday, I compared rewarding a big man that’s the first one down the floor with a pass for a bucket to giving your dog a treat for good behavior. It is the positive reinforcement that encourages them and gives them incentive keep completing that task.
A big man that can run puts a lot of pressure on the defense and can do wonders to further open up lanes for the guards and wings to shoot or attack the rim. Just ask Jameel McKay.
This is such a small thing to be writing about, but Iowa State really has struggled early this season with setting screens. It isn’t only on their high ball-screen sets, but in general.
On this play, Holden needs to come set with some distance between him and the player guarding Morris at the top of the key. That allows Morris to guide that player into the screen rather than Holden being the one to make initial contact.
Instead, Holden makes the first contact resulting in his second foul of the game. This is such a small thing, but improvement in screen setting could open up a lot of stuff for Iowa State’s offense.
Another nit-picky thing on that play, Morris needs to be just a bit more patient waiting for Holden to come set rather than creeping forward. Even if it was only a few steps, they made coming set for the screen a little more of a moving target for Holden as he ran to the top of the key.
My last play for now is the one that resulted in Holden’s first foul…
Iowa State is able to play pretty good first shot defense on this possession and force Iowa into shooting a contested 3-pointer. Once the shot is up, Burton fails to make contact with his man then doesn’t go hard after the ball before his man flies in to grab the rebound.
The play results in Holden picking up his first unnecessary foul of the game. This play would’ve ended completely different if Burton had just made contact with his guy rather than running straight towards the hoop and turning his back.
If there is a plus side to any of these mistakes, it is that a lot of them are correctable. There’s still 20-plus games left in the season and the Cyclones have some time to focus on themselves this week.
If you want more analysis of the film from this game, check out this week’s episode of CFTV-LIVE.