Inside the play: Tennesse gets a late lead with a nice out of bounds play
Jimmy Dykes correctly pointed out before the play started that Tennessee was going to set a screen for Scotty Hopson in this baseline out of bounds play out of a timeout. Mississippi State was well aware of the threat posed by Hopson and keyed in on him to try to keep the ball out of his hands.
Even thought the screen was set for Hopson, I believe Pearl thought that Tobias Harris was going to be the open man in the end, as MSU would key in on Hopson. He was correct and it led to Harris being wide open under the basket.
Here is how Tennessee started the play. They are lined up in a 4 across set, with Hopson on the near wing and Harris on the right block. I think many people were assuming that Hopson was going to come across the paint to the right wing and try to catch the ball in the corner for a shot or penetration.
Hopson comes off of two screens, set by Brian Williams and Harris. This is designed to get the defense focused on Hopson and to draw the focus of a few defenders.
What you see is that three MSU defenders are shadowing Hopson, which gives Harris the wide open look at the basket. Ravern Johnson is trailing Hopson because of a nice screen by Harris. This forces Harris’ man to step out on Hopson.
The key is that the defender guarding the inbounder also steps out on Hopson. This is three players that have eyes on Hopson. I am okay with Harris’ man stepping out on Hopson, as MSU wanted to make any pass to Hopson difficult and Johnson was trailing the play. The issue is the defender guarding the inbounder also steps to Hopson.
I think its a good idea for the defender to have his back to the inbounder to try to cover any cutters. Some coaches will have him face the ball to try to get a deflection and bother the inbounder but I would rather have him try to help on cutters. I would try to ensure that he stays in the painted area to protect the basket, however. Instead, he drifts out to Hopson and leaves the paint vacant.
As shown above, with three defenders focusing on Hopson, this leaves Harris wide open to dive to the bucket after setting the screen. Pearl knew the defense was going to focus on Hopson and used this to his advantage to draw up a play to get a good look at the basket.
The inbounder, Josh Bone, showed great patience in letting the play develop and find Harris cutting to the basket. With the defender having his back turned and defending Hopson, it gave Bone an open passing line to deliver the ball to Harris.
This was a nice play call out of a timeout by Pearl. He knew that MSU was going to focus on stopping Hopson and drew up a play to take advantage of that fact. However, if the defender guarding the inbounder would have stayed in the paint, Harris would not have been open.
Even though they ended up losing the game, Tennessee put themselves in a nice position down the stretch to win the game. They just couldn’t put it away on the defensive end.