Vanderbilt’s high perimeter defense allows Cleveland State to go backdoor
While their defense was a big reason for their win over Vanderbilt, Cleveland State also executed their offense well in spurts. Vanderbilt was overplaying the wing and Cleveland State took advantage of this to go backdoor for the easy layup.
John Jenkins is the first victim on the backdoor, as he overplays Trevon Harmon in the corner. Watch as his position changes as the ball moves around the perimeter. He starts with a foot in the paint to cut off penetration when the ball is at the top of the key and moves toward his defender as the ball moves to being one pass away from Trevon Harmon, Jenkins’ man.
When Jenkins is one pass away, he plays a high defensive line to try to deny the pass and force the ball to stop. With Jenkins playing to deny a pass, Harmon cuts behind him to the rim and finishes the layup. Jenkins does not have the quickness to recover and cannot defend the shot once he is beat.
This is not an individual problem for Jenkins but seems to be a team philosophy, as we will see in our second clip below. This high line of defense leaves the backdoor open, as we see in this play. If Kevin Stallings is okay with getting beat on the backdoor a couple of times per game, this strategy could work to slow down the ball movement of the offense and help the defensive become more successful.
Jenkins being beat may not be a surprise, as he is widely regarded as being a poor defender. In this play, Jeffrey Taylor, looked at as the best perimeter defender on Vanderbilt, is beat by the backdoor cut when he gets caught playing too high to deny the pass.
D’Aundray Brown recognizes that Taylor is overplaying and cuts backdoor to the rim for the easy layup. Cleveland State again takes advantage of the aggressive perimeter defense of Vanderbilt to get the easy backdoor layup.
It will be interesting to watch the defense of Vanderbilt this season and how teams react to the ball denial. They will make it difficult on some teams to keep the offense flowing, as they will make the usually easy passes around the perimeter more difficult but they are susceptible to the backdoor as we saw in the Cleveland State game. The presence of Festus Ezeli, missing in this game, may be able to cover any backdoor cuts against his teammates. With poor defenders such as Brad Tinsley and Jenkins trying to deny the pass, Ezeli will likely regularly be called into action to help on these cuts.