Sullinger gets open late in the game
Coming down the court after a Northwestern turnover with the game tied and the shot clock off, Ohio State chose to not call a timeout and play through the final possession. I am not sure if this play was called or whether the action happened organically but I was happy to see a team not settle for late game isolation but instead ran their normal offense.
Ohio State ran through a nice set to get Sullinger open on the block where he was fouled, eventually making one free throw to win the game for the Buckeyes. Let’s take a look at why he was open.
The play starts with a ball screen set by Sullinger. Northwestern wants to keep the ball out of the lane, so Mirkovic hedges on Craft. This creates some space between him and Sullinger and Sullinger dives to the block to set a screen for Diebler.
Sullinger then sets a token screen for Diebler to get open on the wing. I don’t believe Diebler is using this screen to get open for a shot, as he does not wait and set the screen up. However, he is trying to create a little separation so Craft can make the pass. Mirkovic is still recovering from the hedge and is a little slow in rotating back to Sullinger.
After setting the screen for Diebler, Sullinger pivots and seals Mirkovic, who is just now recovering after the hedge on the ballscreen. Diebler gets the ball and makes a quick entry pass into the post. Now, it is just a matter of Sullinger going to work one on one against Mirkovic as he is great position after the seal.
The help is late because of the action on the opposite side of the court. The play was always designed to go to Diebler then Sullinger but a simple down screen by Lighty on Buford kept the defense active and the help late. Instead of being stagnant and letting the defense sag off of them, OSU ran some simple movements that kept the defense out of the paint.
You could argue that Marcotullio (#4) should have been in the lane regardless but he had to at least be aware of the action on the weakside of the court, which forced him to be late in the help.
It was refreshing to see a team run through a set late in the game instead of relying on isolation, which so many times results in a contested jump shot. Ohio State did not panic, even without a timeout and ran a good set to get two free throws to win the game.
I think the two keys were the initial ball screen to force Mirkovic to hedge the screen, which allowed Sullinger to seal, and the weakside action, which caused the help defense to be late. Great execution late by the Buckeyes.