UConn – Yale: Anatomy of a Buzzer Beater 2.0

The Situation: UConn 44 – Yale 42, 3.5 seconds left.

The Players: Javier Duren (15 PTS, 1-8 3PT) inbounding for Yale guarded by Samuel. Boatright on Jack Montague (3 PTS, 1-4 3PT). SCJ on Makai Mason  (2 PTS, 0-2 3PT). Hamilton on Justin Sears (12 PTS, 4-11 FG), Nolan on Matt Townsend (8 PTS, 0-1 3PT). See below:

UConn Yale 1

The Play: Option #1 on the play was a lob for athletic forward Justin Sears who had outworked the Huskies all night. Presumably, off a back screen from #42 Townsend. However, with Nolan positioned as he was under the basket, that option was taken away. Option #2* ran #4 Montague and #11 Mason on a misdirection past #42 Townsend, undoubtedly aiming to exploit a weakness exposed in the Texas game (Figure A).  Boatright calls for the switch as Montague and Mason cut across the middle. SCJ, as you can see in Figure B, is clearly fixated on his man and late to respond to the switch leaving Montague wide open in the corner. Daniel Hamilton picks up on the misdirection but is screened by Mason and cannot recover in time.

UConn Yale 2

Figure A

Figure B

Figure B

*Option #2 also could have been #42 Townsend rolling to the rim off the back screen. On the switch he would have his defender behind him and a clear path to the rim.

The Result: With SCJ late to respond and Hamilton caught in a screen, Montague knocks down a three in the corner for the win. That floor panel needs to be removed.

UConn Yale 4

The Verdict: 

Kevin Ollie on the last play: “Boatright had Montague. He was pointing for the switch and Sam took a couple of steps in. Montague just came off and got open, then Sam was late to retreat. It was just a communication (breakdown) again, things that we went over in practice to stop. We’ve just got to do a better job reacting to late game situations, and switching. Boat called the switch, but we just didn’t react fast enough — kind of like in the Texas game.”

SCJ on the last play: “(Boatright) called a switch. I thought I saw a guy come through the middle. The guy went to the corner. It was my fault.”

The final play was a result of terrible execution. Maybe Kevin Ollie was outcoached this game but to say he was outcoached on the final play is ridiculous. There is no doubt in my mind defense -especially communication on switches- was a focal point at practice this past week. I would estimate each player received hundreds of reps in similar situations, primarily guards. Ryan Boatright read the play as it was unfolding and clearly indicated for the switch. Daniel Hamilton also recognized the play, but was caught by Yale’s timing. SCJ needs to pick up on the call and react. It is that simple. He is a 22 year old RS sophomore who grew up surrounded by basketball, he’s not inexperienced. He needs to react. If he can’t, he can’t be trusted to play late in the game. Terrible execution- no excuse.

Last thought:

Why not have Brimah guard the inbound? His 7’6 wingspan (reported) could have greatly disrupted the vision of the 6’4 Duren either creating a turnover or errant pass. If Duren were to receive an immediate pass back I am confident Brimah could still take away the three. Or, if Duren were to drive and score on Brimah I still like us at home in OT…

Thank you

“Two Final Fours, Champions in Maui, Winning the Big East Tournament and a National Championship: Few people witness in a lifetime what we were fortunate enough to experience in two years. Thank you UCONN Basketball for four of the most memorable years of my life.”

     This was my salute to UCONN basketball after working my last game senior year of college. It all went by in a blur yet I can still remember specific plays like they happened yesterday: Jeff Adrien’s dunk over two taller Michigan State defenders in the 2008 Final Four, Jeremy Lamb’s high flying dunk vs Columbia and of course Kemba Walker’s step back sinking Gary McGhee and Pitt. Although we still have the postseason tournaments to go, tonight brings the ceremonious culmination for the remaining 2010 recruiting class of Niels Giffey, Shabazz Napier and Tyler Olander. For such an unheralded recruiting class they have certainly given fans some of the most memorable moments in UCONN history. Shabazz, up for every major award this season, deserves all the accolades he receives however it is important not to overlook the contributions of Tyler and Niels, especially during the 2011 National Championship season.

     Few remember the 14 points Giffey put up in the Maui Championship game against Kentucky to complement Kemba’s offensive attack, some probably had never heard of him until that game. Even less will remember Olander’s contribution in the 2011 Big East semifinals vs Syracuse. With Okwandu and Oriakhi in foul trouble, Olander came off the bench to provide 7 points/6 rebounds against imposing Cuse’ big man Rick Jackson. Tyler’s breakthrough performance came when UCONN needed it most and dramatically changed the course of the game for the Huskies. Add in Shabazz’ clutch free throws in the waning seconds against Kentucky in the Final Four and you have three clutch performances that embody what it means to play basketball at UCONN. Grit, perseverance, toughness and commitment. Amidst all the transfers, the uncertainties, the negative attention, the loss of a postseason- they never left. In a college basketball landscape that glorifies the one-and-done, this is what it means to be a team, to be a family. Anyone- fan, coach, player, staff- who was a part of the 2011 National Championship season knows this is the most important ingredient. To have not one but three leaders who understand this concept is a scary thought for opposing teams come tournament time.

     This night is especially gratifying for me as it marks the last Gampel home game for my childhood friend, Tyler. Growing up in Mansfield, we wandered UCONN’s campus as little kids among UCONN greats such as Rudy Gay, Emeka Okafor and RIP Hamilton. Exiting high school practices you could see Gampel looming in the distance however it felt light years away. When Tyler committed to UCONN I was excited, but didn’t grasp the importance of this connection. The first “aha” moment occurred in warm-ups of the first game in Maui. While serving drastically different capacities, we were both in Hawaii representing the program we had idolized as kids against the top teams in the country. Next came the Big East Tournament at MSG and National Championship in Houston. Old friends from DC to Texas to Florida came out to not only watch UCONN, but Tyler. It is one thing to share a National Championship with your college friends, however when you can share the experience with childhood friends and family- it makes it that much more special. Suddenly, Gampel didn’t seem so far away. Through the ups and downs, it has been a great run and I will never forget the memories. Thank you Tyler and best of luck to you, Niels and Shabazz in the future.