Armchair Film Room: Closing Time vs Kansas
In the Illinois Basketball exhibition victory against preseason No. 1 ranked Kansas, they scored zero points in transition. At their best, Illinois Basketball will play on the fast break, and Kansas coach Bill Self knows that. The Jayhawks did a great job keeping the Illinois offense in the halfcourt, a credit to their coaching and execution.
This meant that all game the Illini had to execute their half court offense down the stretch to close out the win. With five minutes remaining, the score was tied 70-70. The Illini then proceeded to outscore Kansas 12-5 the rest of the way. Brad Underwood opted to close with fifth year Senior Justin Harmon in place for Sophomore Ty Rodgers. The ultra experienced group of players on the floor were able to do what last years squad so often failed to do, and closed the game.
Brad Underwood had attacked the Jayhawks defense through Coleman Hawkins at the high post, and that didn’t stop as the game came down the stretch. The Illini run a more measured version of their dribble pitch to start the possession, a nice way to help relieve pressure getting into a set. Marcus Domask enters the ball to Hawkins, and sets a ‘split’ screen to get Terrence Shannon Jr. downhill to his strong left hand:
As he does, Shannon Jr. forces the defense to collapse, leaving Quincy Guerrier wide open in the corner.
Kansas knows they won’t be able to win allowing wide open jump corner jump shots. Thus, when the Illini go back to that set the next time down, they are ready. Instead of switching the split screen as they did the possession prior, Nick Timberlake chases Shannon Jr. hard, denying him the ball. Whether or not this was intended I’m not sure. KJ Adams Jr. is slow to react to a smart slip from Domask, which holds the low defender. Hawkins immediately identifies the weak point, delivering an on-point pass to Guerrier:
After just making one, Guerrier uses that to attack the closeout and draw a foul. Guerrier shot 8/10 from the line this game, with all 10 attempts coming in the second half. If he can make free throws at a good rate it will make him an even tougher cover as the power forward next to Hawkins.
It’s still a one possession game with 3:30 left, and Kansas is sick of this set. The Jayhawks pressure hard, extending their pressure to half court. The timing is delayed, and with Timberlake off the floor, the Jayhawks don’t really have a targetable weakness on the perimeter. Kansas switches the perimeter actions well, leaving Hawkins with a live dribble at the top of the key:
At this point Hawkins had already made a couple threes. While it’s not what you want to rely heavily on, Hawkins can create a clean look against just about any true center in a late clock situation.
At this point Self gets creative. Moving Adams Jr. onto Hawkins negates Hawkins advantage off the bounce. This puts Dickinson as the low defender on Guerrier, who remains stationary in this set. The Illini have a wrinkle, having Domask run a rub cut off Hawkins, with Harmon raising for a handoff. Kansas switches, putting Dajuan Harris on Hawkins. Hawkins smartly goes to post, and then Kansas brilliantly pre-switches the post, with Dickinson coming off Guerrier. It’s perfectly guarded… until Harmon beats Freshman Elmarko Jackson on a back cut:
The Illini now lead by six with under 2:30 to go, with their veterans staying poised, and getting a good look each time.
After splitting a pair of free throws, Kansas pressures hard, and Underwood calls for timeout as nothing unfolds from the set.
The Illini need another bucket to slam the door, but are in a great position no matter what. I thought Underwood got a little too passive out of the timeout, with Shannon Jr. holding for a stagnant pick and roll:
Shannon Jr. generates a decent look here, but I’d rather see him play downhill to end games. Illinois basketball secures the rebound, and then stall again with Hawkins forced to take a tough shot.
However, they have now taken the clock to around 90 seconds, making it not the worst-case scenario. The Illini can set their defense, and they get a stop.
The Illini look to slam the door again, this time with a high ball screen getting Dickinson on Domask. However, Domask isn’t immediately aggressive, swinging the ball to Hawkins. Guerrier trucks his guy on the cut and instinctively looks for the ball as he is wide open. However with Hawkins right there, there’s no angle and Harmon smartly reverses to Domask, who attacks Dickinson:
Domask gets a good look at the rim. Guerrier is also in great position for the rebound as his man comes over to help. He misses the point-blank tip, but in some basketball karma, Kansas turns it over and Illinois ices the game from the line.
The Jayhawks boast two All-Big 12 defensive players on the perimeter in Harris and Kevin McCullar, both of whom played basically the entire game. And with Dickinson they have a true power forward-center combo behind that with Bill Self pulling the levers from the bench. Illinois execution level rose to the occasion, getting them a massive win (that doesn’t count).
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