Freeze Frame: Tennessee’s Three-Point Defense

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 20th, 2011

Tennessee lost 71-65 to a good College of Charleston team in Knoxville on December 14, but this loss was avoidable. The Volunteers looked lost on defense because of inconsistencies in effort and a lack of communication on perimeter screens. The Vols didn’t body up to Charleston’s shooters, allowing open looks all night. This is not a new problem for Cuonzo Martin’s club. Tennessee has allowed opposing guards to light it up all season long. In each of its losses this year, Tennessee has been unable to lock down the opposition’s star player:

  • Duke: Seth Curry – 17 points, four assists
  • Memphis: Will Barton – 25 points, one assist
  • Oakland: Reggie Hamilton – 35 points, three assists
  • Pittsburgh: Ashton Gibbs – 16 points, six assists
  • Austin Peay: TyShwan Edmondson – 19 points, two assists
  • College of Charleston: Antwaine Wiggins – 24 points, eight rebounds

College of Charleston came into this game making 34.9% of its three-point attempts. Against the Vols, the Cougars were 7-15 (46.7%). In this installment of Freeze Frame, we will examine UT’s inability to close out on good shooters, which allowed CofC to win this game.

Play 1 (17 minutes remaining in the first half)

Antwaine Wiggins is the Cougars’ most prolific scorer at 18.1 points per game. Cameron Tatum started out the game defending him, however, Tatum got tangled up on screens several times allowing Wiggins to get free. In the first play, Wiggins takes Tatum through two screens to find an open three point shot on the perimeter. Trent Weideman (#44) for CofC sets the first screen at the top of the key.

Charleston's Wiggins runs UT's Tatum through a set of screens

Wiggins runs around the first screen only to catch Tatum on a second screen near the free throw line. Freshman Adjehi Baru tangles Tatum up in the lane. The Tennessee defenders become confused about whether or not to switch and Tatum becomes stranded while Wiggins darts toward the three-point line.

A second screen allows Wiggins to get free

The Cougars swing the ball back toward Wiggins to find him wide open, and he knocks down the three-pointer. Tatum has to do a better job communicating with teammates, and getting through screens which he does not appear to even make an effort in this case. As you can see, Tennessee brings a defender up from the corner to play help defense, which will come back to hurt the Vols.

Tatum is nowhere near the wide open Wiggins

Play 2 (3:21 remaining in the first half)

Matt Sundberg (#5) sets a screen for Wiggins who comes around toward the top of the key. Tennessee switches defenders on the screen and Renaldo Woolridge is now guarding Wiggins.

Tennessee switches on the screen

Wiggins passes out to the wing, and cuts into the lane.

Woolridge is still on Wiggins

Sundberg cuts in to the top of the arc while Wiggins relocates for the swing pass. Meanwhile, you can see that Woolridge begins stepping up to switch back to Sundberg.

College of Charleston is preparing for the swing pass

When Sundberg catches the ball, there is a miscommunication between the two Tennessee defenders as both jump to defend Sundberg, leaving Wiggins wide open again.

Who's on Wiggins?

Woolridge realizes that he left Wiggins, but it is too late at that point. Wiggins is wide open, and he easily knocks down another trey. Tennessee’s miscommunication is costing them.

Oops... nobody is guarding the guy who averages over 18 points a game

Play 3 (11:54 remaining in the second half)

Remember when we said that leaving the man in the corner would cost Tennessee? Well, it did on this next play. Tennessee can’t stop the penetration and again the help defender comes from Sundberg’s defender in the corner.

Tennessee's poor perimeter defense puts them in a bad situation

Who would you rather leave open, Sundberg who averages 35 percent from beyond the arc or Baru who hasn’t even attempted a three all season? Well, Tennessee opts to leave Sundberg.

Don't leave THAT guy open

Tennessee tries to recover, and again it is simply too late. Sundberg knocks down another open three point shot.

Too late!

It was Tennessee’s inability to stop penetration that led to the open shot. The Volunteers’ guards made too many errors on the defensive end of the court to get the win in this one. Tennessee has allowed opposing teams to shoot 39.7% from beyond the arc. Coach Martin will look to shore up the Volunteer perimeter defense and the miscommunication issues from certain players before his Tennessee team allows any other guards to go off for a career night.

Brian Joyce (285 Posts)

Brian Joyce is an advanced metrics enthusiast, college hoops junkie, and writer for the SEC basketball microsite for Rush the Court.


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