Rhode Island’s effective first half defense against the pick and roll
Pitt has not run the pick and roll that many times in the first half, but Rhode Island has been ready for it when they have run the set. The Rams have shown they are not concerned with the big men rolling to the basket and are putting all their focus on the ball handler.
In this first clip, watch Rhode Island switch the pick and roll. The switching defender is able to cut off the driving Pitt player and picks up help from his teammates.
This looks to be the gameplan for the Rams, as they are focusing on the driving player and relying on the help defense to provide support and recover. As the help defense collapses, the weak side is open, but the Rams are content in giving Pitt the open three point shot.
While this gives Pitt an open 3, they cannot convert. Rhode Island is happy with this possession, as they forced the ball out of the guards hand on the pick and roll.
On the second attempt by Pitt, Rhode Island doubles the screener and forces him to give the ball up, leading to another empty possession. Rhode Island is showing no respect for Zanna and it is paying off. (Sorry for the poor quality).
Finally, we see Rhode Island again relying on the switching and help defense to defend the pick and roll. Rhode Island leaves Zanna again and focuses on the ballhandler.
They then rely on the help defense to scramble to cover the open man and recover.
This works for the Rams again, as the big men of Pitt are no threat to score from anywhere on the court. Right after this clip, they ran the pick and roll again, with Zanna missing an open layup.
That is why Rhode Island is switching/doubling the pick and roll. The big men for Pitt (Zanna/McGee) are not strong offensive players and the Rams can focus on denying the paint from the ballhandler rather than focusing on the roll men. It has worked in the first half as Pitt has not scored directly from the pick and roll.
Can Pitt adjust in the second half? Check back and see.