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Clemson Beats SCAR (Again)

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and enjoyed the hell out of the Cotton Bowl. Sorry for the late post here, as obviously this game was over a week ago. The big emphasis I want to make this time is about getting beat backdoor on defense.

Let’s dive in.

Offense

We really miss Gabe DeVoe. I underestimated his contributions on offense and defense. We don’t have any “true” shooters the way he was; Reed and Mitchell and Trapp are capable, but they aren’t killers out there. Reed for instance is a better scorer than he is a shooter, which is a fine distinction but an important one.

Which brings me to Eli Thomas. I have mentioned before how skilled I think he is in the post. He is not just a big body but a legitimately skilled player with great footwork and a soft touch. Exhibit A is his first basket in the second half against SCAR where he did his up and under for a soft layup. It was beautiful.

He is shooting 70% from the field this year. That’s crazy. He needs a minimum of 12-15 shots a game. Not touches, shots. The problem, of course, is that 1) it’s hard to force-feed the post when we don’t have great shooters, and 2) he can’t stay on the floor because of his stupid fouls.

Defense

South Carolina is really bad. They can’t shoot, they can’t drive, and they can’t finish. They did play really hard and killed us on the offensive glass. Rebounding is about effort and about getting your ass into the other player’s hips. That’s how you get position, and so for your opponent to get the rebound, he has to commit a foul by going over your back. The effort part simply means that you have to also go get the damn ball.

Most of our players seem to rely on already being big and then jumping (or they just ball-watch, which is unforgivable), but a guy like SCAR’s Chris Silva is a pogo stick, a good athlete but average basketball player. You have to get a body on him, and we didn’t do very well at that against him or Frink (the freshman with Sideshow Bob hair). We really should’ve won by about 30 given how offensively challenged SCAR is, but they played harder than us and were able to steal buckets and foul shots.

Backdoor Cuts

Backdoor cuts are simple but deadly. The gist is this – say your point guard has the ball on the wing. His teammate in the corner fakes a movement toward the ball, then cuts “backdoor” toward the hoop. Again, simple but deadly. You guys know how DrB says “pass the jergens” when he sees a good old-school block? Go to YouTube and search for Princeton beating UCLA in 1996 and watch highlights to see what a backdoor cut is (especially Princeton’s game winning basket, where they just kept running backdoor until it got open). It can be glorious.

Okay, so how do you stop it? It’s hard to do, but there is a defensive principle that applies here. Since this is more of a football site, I’m sure most of the readers are familiar with certain principles like “to beat the option, you have to stop the dive and hit the QB every play.” Perhaps the most important defensive principle if you’re off the ball is “see your man and the ball at the same time.”

At lower levels of play, it largely means to sag off your man, basically creating a triangle between the ball, you, and your man. You have to sag off enough to be able to “see” both. You can’t just face guard your man without seeing ball because 1) you’re useless as a help defender and 2) like a DB in football, it’s not enough to have your man blanketed because the ball can still get by you. On the other hand, you can’t just watch the ball and lose your man.

The downside of sagging off so much, especially at higher levels of play, is that it makes closing out on your man much more difficult. That said, I’d always rather make the other team shoot a semi-contested 3 than to give them an uncontested layup.

Clyde Trapp got caught ball-watching several times, and Hunter Tyson did at least once as well. They peeked toward the ball-handler and had no clue their man cut backdoor until it was too late. Rather than the triangle I referenced above, Trapp basically positioned himself in a straight line, and since basketball is so much about angles, that’s defensive death. I mentioned before that he’s swimming out there on defense, and this game was a prime example. Again, South Carolina stinks. A real offense is going to make that hurt even more.

Miscellaneous

  • White is a pretty big downgrade from Thomas unfortunately. We really need Eli to figure out how to stay on the floor.
  • Reed looked winded, but I love how he looks to score. I’m excited for him to get healthy. Thomas still looks heavy and I think he had several chances in the last 8 minutes for dunks rather than layups that he didn’t take and thus couldn’t get and-ones.
  • Mitchell wasn’t very good. I am so high on him, so I’m doubly disappointed in how he’s played this year. His shooting slump continues, and he’s dribbling too much. I’m not sure he’s seeing the floor very well. The ACC is going to be unbearable if we can’t get better play from him.
  • Thomas played pretty hard, especially in the second half. He rolled hard to the basket and was aggressive. He just has no basketball IQ I guess.
  • In addition to the backdoor cut woes, Trapp was bad on the ball and gave up some lanes in the first half. He shot well at least, and he’s aggressive with the ball too, but I’d like more consistency on both ends from him.
  • Newman’s dunk over Silva. My God.
  • I want to like Simms so much, but I just don’t know if we can rely on him to show each night. He has promise, but also goes invisible for such long stretches of games.
  • Most spectators likely know that in the first half, the clock does not stop after a made basket like it will at the end of the game. SCAR hit a jumper with 4 or 5 seconds left to end the half, and no Clemson player went to grab it so the clock ran out. This should never, ever, ever happen. (Note from Mrs. AlphaTiger, who was an All-American point guard: when I played, the 4 always took the ball out, but even if there is no designated player to take it out, after a made basket with 5 seconds left, I would’ve grabbed the damn ball to throw it in and then demand the ball back immediately so I could push it. This was inexcusable.)

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