Iowa State’s Offensive Adjustments Secure Big 12 Tournament Win

Posted by Chris Stone on March 15th, 2015

Iowa State won its second straight Big 12 tournament title on Saturday night with an exciting 70-66 victory over regular season champion Kansas. The Cyclones trailed by 14 at halftime but used a furious second half comeback to snatch the trophy away from the top-seeded Jayhawks. In Fred Hoiberg‘s interview with ESPN‘s Holly Rowe just before the beginning of the half, Hoiberg said his team would look to space the floor in order to open up driving lanes to penetrate the Kansas defense. Those halftime adjustments helped the Cyclones create numerous easy scoring opportunities as Iowa State outscored Kansas 47-29 in the final 20 minutes.

Iowa State Won Its Second Straight Big 12 Championship With an Impressive Second Half (USA Today Images)

Iowa State Won Its Second Straight Big 12 Championship With an Impressive Second Half (USA Today Images)

The strategy can be seen on Iowa State’s first possession of the second half. The Cyclones ran action that was meant to take advantage of Kansas’s aggressive hedging against pick-and-rolls. In the following clip, watch Iowa State point guard Monte Morris (#11) begin the pick-and-roll with Georges Niang (#31). The Jayhawks’ Landen Lucas (#33) hedges the screen while Iowa State’s Jameel McKay (#1) screens Morris’ defender, Frank Mason (#1). The result is an easy roll to the basket for McKay as Niang hits him in stride for the slam; the Kansas defenders can only turn and watch.

Hoiberg has been regaled within coaching circles for several years in large part because of his reliance on NBA-enhanced concepts like spacing the floor in the clip above. The Mayor played 10 years in the league and spent the next four in the front office of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has honed his offensive philosophy at Iowa State around ideas like spacing, isolations and mismatches. With the versatile Niang, Hoiberg has one of the biggest mismatches in all of college basketball. A 6’7″ forward, Niang has both the ability to take his defender off the dribble and shoot from the perimeter (where he’s knocked down 40.2 percent of his attempts this season). That versatility allows the junior to take advantage of opponents that make mistakes against the Cyclones’ spacing. In the following clip, Iowa State runs action similar to the video above, except this time, Niang knocks down a three-pointer as Lucas defends against McKay’s roll to the rim instead of stepping out to contest the shot.

Hoiberg’s club also used screens to create mismatches where the Cyclones could simply go one-on-one with a Kansas defender. Here, Abdel Nader (#2) sets a quick screen for Niang on the perimeter. Nader’s defender, Brannen Greene (#14), switches onto Niang while Ellis faces up to guard Nader. With the floor now well-spaced, Nader attacks Ellis off the dribble, using a spin move to get to the hoop where he finishes through Jamari Traylor’s contest.

Those mismatches, though, don’t always require a screen to set up. Hoiberg has proven willing to play smaller lineups that naturally create mismatches against their defenders. In this final clip, Iowa State has only one player taller than 6’6″ on the floor. The result is that Traylor (#31) is forced to guard the Cyclones’ Bryce Dejean-Jones out on the perimeter. All that is required of the other players is to space the floor and let Dejean-Jones go to work against the slower Traylor.

Hoiberg is one of the best coaches in the country and he showcased why during the Big 12 Tournament championship game. Using simple actions to create better space and player mismatches, Hoiberg allowed his team to take advantage of their strengths on the offensive end. Iowa State closed the game by scoring 30 of their 47 second half points in the paint as Kansas defenders simply couldn’t keep up with the Cyclones’ activity. Two things about that should scare Iowa State’s opponents in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The first is that the Cyclones didn’t exactly carve up a poor defense — Kansas entered the game ranked among the top 10 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. The second is that Iowa State is no longer over-reliant on shooting from behind the arc. The Cyclones led the Big 12 conference in two-point shooting percentage this season, converting on 53 percent of those attempts. Creating easy buckets limits the variance of three-point shooting and Hoiberg’s offense is one of the best in the land at getting those open looks, something his team proved in spades on Saturday.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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