UConn’s plays poor transition defense
There are a few main principles in transition defense: stop the ball, protect the basket and find shooters. This can be a difficult skill for some teams to execute regularly, especially a young team like UConn. In their matchup with Notre Dame, they failed a transition defense on two possessions within several minutes of each other, giving Notre Dame two open threes.
In transition defense, it is not about who you are ‘supposed’ to be guarding. It is about finding the man closest to you and recovering when your teammates are set. This is especially true when you are closest to the ball.
In this clip, though, it should have been much easier to stop the ball in this situation. Hansbrough walks the ball up the court in this clip and Notre Dame is not really looking to run. Kemba Walker chooses to set up in his stance at the three point line against a player who shots over 45% from 3.
Hansbrough has plenty of room to gather himself and launch the shot. By giving him this much space, Walker was basically begging him to shoot.
What Walker should have done was pick him at the three point line, if not above the three point line. This would have done a few things: Not allowed Hansbrough to take an uncontested shot, made him work to handle the ball and started Notre Dame’s offense far away from the basket, making it harder to run their sets.
While this is not a perfect clip to show poor transition defense, it shows the importance of picking up the ball. It should have been easy in this play but Walker made a mistake by giving up too much space.
Notre Dame has 4 players who shoot 34% from 3, making it imperative you find these players in transition so they do not get an open three. Once again, the young Huskies make a mistake in transition, letting the Irish lead grow.
The first thing you should notice is the number of Huskies jogging back on defense. Alex Oriakhi is trying his best to get back but Jeremy Lamb is showing little hustle. Notre Dame played it well by passing ahead twice but there is little reason that 3 Huskies have not made it back to within the three point area.
Oriakhi tries to get back to cover Scott Martin but is too late. Here is what I think should have happened. Look at Shabazz Napier in the paint. He tries to do the right thing and sprint to the paint but you also have to recognize the situation: Notre Dame is full of great shooters and you need to pick them out and scramble to them.
Napier needed to have seen Martin open on the wing and moved out there to contest the shot. It is not necessarily a bad thing he ran to the paint, however, getting there and not covering anybody is futile. He was not the only Huskie to make a mistake on this play, as you can point to several others and their slow recovery as to why Martin was open.
Credit Notre Dame for running a nice break by not dribbling and moving the ball through the pass. However, I believe UConn could have at least contested the shot if they played it a little better: hustled back and picked out shooters to close out on. They did not get that done and they gave up an open three.