Temple held a 50-46 lead over the Indiana Hoosiers last Sunday with 2:46 to play. The Owls had mixed in man with their zone schemes and had slowed Indiana to a crawl. Meanwhile, Temple tried to put Indiana on ice with a conservative offensive game plan where they stopped moving on offense and attacking the basket off the dribble. Although Temple ended up losing, the Owls aired the game plan that would be the perfect elixir for the Hoosiers on Thursday night against Syracuse – a stable and efficient offense plus the staple and the definition of Jim Boeheim and Syracuse – the 2-3 zone.
‘Cuse’s more athletically gifted lineup entangled Indiana in a web of offensive lockdown where the Hoosiers couldn’t get out in transition and then, when in the half-court offense, the Hoosiers seemed to not know where to go over the extra length of the Orange 2-3 and the athleticism of the Syracuse big men that was causing so many shot alterations inside.
Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone doomed Indiana on Thursday night, but what will happen when Buzz Williams and Marquette game plan against it’s familiarity for them for the East Regional Final on Saturday? Courtesy Syracuse Sports Information
“As you can see, at first they looked confused, it was slowing the ball down seeing what they could get,” said James Southerland, “We just do the a good job of talking out there and recovering if they get penetration, but it’s tough. One thing they don’t see is how long we are until they approach our zone.”
Indiana ended up 16-of-48 from the field and made only three triples while Syracuse blocked 10 Hoosiers shots and forced 18 turnovers, scoring 18 points off those.
“We just didn’t take care of the ball like we should have,” noted Indiana freshman guard Victor Oladipo, “In the first half we got a little too anxious, catching the ball, moving out the ball, not having the ball secure in our hands, and our shots weren’t falling at the same time.”
That’s what the Syracuse zone makes a team do if it does not immediately have success. Like Southerland said, until teams get on the floor against it, they maybe cannot appreciate the length until they probe the 2-3. Indiana’s self-proclaimed prodigy, Cody Zeller, would catch the basketball in the paint and all of a sudden three Orange defenders would converge on him with hands in his face and flashing around him. He looked very tentative and very unsure of what to do. He’s used to being defended inside by a much less athletic player, night-in, night-out in the Big Ten, but when people like Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. Fair, Baye Moussa Keita, and Southerland converged on him, the shot wasn’t there, and he was left to either get his own shot blocked or turn the ball over.
“Other teams that play zone, you know, for with the most part they play man, they switch up defenses but our main thing is zone,” said guard Brandon Triche, “Like James was saying, we’re very long and active and when we are active like we were today, defensively, we are hard to score on.”
Outside of the Big East is where approaching the defense is drudgery. Inside the league, everyone is used to it. That’s what makes the matchup with Marquette in Saturday’s East regional final an interesting endeavor. The Golden eagles and coach Buzz Williams know Syracuse and the zone very well and then they know how to attack certain Orange players at certain points in the 2-3.
For Boeheim, though, this is his staple and has become his signature quality. Oddly enough, he used to be pretty much a straight man-to-man defensive coach. He decided that it would be more frugal to use the zone predominantly and add wrinkles as the man defense requires so much attention that a team’s zone schemes cannot get much better. At that point, he decided to go with the 2-3 and develop nuances based on his personnel.
“As the years have evolved, not many teams are playing zone and when they play on or practice against it, it’s a false sense of security, because you’re not playing against our defense,” explained Boeheim, “It’s much like when Georgetown had Patrick Ewing, you could practice against their 2‑3, 1‑3‑1, anything you wanted, but at the end of the day when you made your play and made your move and you went to shoot it, he blocked it. You get a false sense of security sometimes at practice.”
- Ken Cross
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