Freeze Frame: Attacking Arkansas’ Full Court Press

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 10th, 2012

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is known for his patented full court pressure, and that defensive intensity caused a headache for the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday. The Razorbacks scored 23 points off turnovers, pressuring the Bulldogs into 18 miscues for the game. Mississippi State looked flustered all night, making a parody of costly errors. Today’s version of Freeze Frame will look at where coach Rick Stansbury’s squad went wrong on Saturday. We’ll also discuss how HD channels should be a prerequisite for watching college basketball. Watching ESPN Full Court’s free preview this week is like watching an old Atari game on your 1980s television complete with drunk goggles. Not good.

Play 1 (14:05 remaining in the first half):

The first rule of attacking Arkansas’ press is you don’t talk about the press. The second rule of beating the press is you DO NOT talk about the press. Ok, the third rule is you don’t try to dribble through it. Freshman guard Deville Smith received the ball in the corner as two Arkansas guards closed in on him.

Don't dribble towards the baseline!

He committed another cardinal sin by dribbling towards the baseline (That’s the fourth rule, by the way). With nowhere to go, Smith’s best option is a skip pass to a streaking offensive player near the half-court line.

Here comes the trap... what will you do Deville Smith?

But instead Smith tried to split the defenders and dribble through the trap. A direct violation of rule number three.

Don't try to dribble through the press...

The defenders swarm the ball, and it’s an easy turnover for the Razorbacks to pick up. You don’t try to dribble through the press by yourself… and you don’t look Kansas State coach Frank Martin in the eyes. These are things everybody in college basketball should know.

Play 2 (12:13 remaining in the first half):

Rule number five is don’t let the press get you out of a comfortable tempo. Arkansas attempts to speed up the pace of the game to force teams into making mistakes. Play 2 is a classic example of Mississippi State failing to slow it down and get the ball back to its point guard. Here, Dee Bost is trapped before the half-court line and passes it up to forward Arnett Moultrie.

Get it past the half-court line, and then get back into an offensive set.

Moultrie attempts to push the tempo, rather than take this as an opportunity to back the ball out to Bost and set up an offensive play.

Hold the ball, and wait for Bost.

Instead, Moultrie skips the ball to the corner. But the pass wasn’t on target and sophomore Jalen Steele catches the ball out of bounds.

The referee has laser eyes pointing right at Steele's foot when he touches the out of bounds line.

Moultrie can’t allow the Razorbacks to dictate Mississippi State’s offensive rhythm. He needed to slow the ball down and back it out for a good look at the basket rather than continuing to hurry the possession.

Play 3 (7:41 remaining in the first half):

The sixth rule against the press is you always come back to the ball. It is great to have complete trust in Bost, but he’s stranded on an island by himself in this next play. There should be a Mississippi State player rushing back to both or one of these circles to help Bost get the ball across the half-court line. Unfortunately, nobody ever comes.

Where have the Mississippi State players gone?

Bost is trapped in the corner, and is forced to make a longer pass than he would like. The Arkansas defender steps in and deflects the pass causing yet another turnover.

Never wait for the ball to come to you.

This one was easy to avoid. Come back to the basketball. If Mississippi State followed the six rules against the press, the Bulldogs would have been in much better shape against the Razorbacks. And if Arkansas plays on national television, we can all witness the press in high definition as it was meant to be seen. Alas, we get neither.

Brian Joyce (333 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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