Click on the link and watch the last play of the Hofstra-Monmouth game from December 6th if you haven’t already seen it.  Monmouth fouls intentionally up 3 with 5.1 seconds left.  Hofstra misses the free throw on purpose, knocks the rebound out and buries a 3 to win the game.

So what happened here?

Smart move by Monmouth to foul on purpose.  If you’ve read this blog for any period of time you know where I stand on this.  The data supports it as well.  As Dave Gavitt used to tell me at Providence – “If you foul, 4 things have to go wrong – they have to 1) Make the first free throw.  2) Miss the 2nd free throw.  3) Get the rebound.  4) Score.  If you don’t foul, only one thing as to go wrong – they have to make a 3.”

Violate the lane

The next step after you foul is to violate the lane.  I’m surprised more teams don’t do this.  If you’ve ever done rebounding drills in practice, and you tell your coach to shoot to miss, you get frustrated when the ball keeps going in.  It’s hard to shoot to miss.  If you violate the lane, what’s the penalty?  They shoot again.  No problem.  But they can never get a rebound, which is what they need to beat you.  After a couple of free throw misses, the ball is bound to go in – which is what you want.  Just get the ball inbounds and go home with a W.

However, there is one thing to think about – the possession arrow.  In this scenario, Hofstra had the possession arrow.  Why does it matter?  Because a double violation – one on each team, goes to the possession arrow.  So if you violate the lane, and then the shooter attempts the free throw but misses the rim entirely (a second violation), you’ve got one violation on both teams.  In that case, we go to the arrow.  In this game, Hofstra would have ended up with the ball out of bounds and 5.1 seconds to tie or win the game.  Not what you want if you are Monmouth.

Is it worth the risk?  If you don’t have the arrow, essentially you are asking which is more likely – is he going to make one free throw by accident before he misses the rim entirely?  Probably not a risk you want to take.

Which brings up another point, if you are the shooting team and you have the arrow.  If the defending team violates early – they step in and step out before you shoot the ball – you should intentionally miss the rim.  Just throw it off the backboard. Double violation, you get the ball out of bounds.

So in this game, it’s hard to blame Monmouth for not violating the lane.  But where they could have done better is how they lined up.  If you are expecting an intentional miss, you need to match up with the 5 offensive players.  On most free throws there are 3 offensive players in the lane, including the shooter.  There are 4 defensive players.  Which means on the perimeter you have a 2 on 1 or Hofstra.

On a regular free throw, the odds probably aren’t great that a rebound is going to end up out at the 3 point line.  But in an intentional miss scenario where you know the offense is just going to try and knock it around if they can’t grab it, it’s more likely.  The defense in this scenario needs to take one guy off the lane.  Let the bigs match up one on one with the bigs on the block, and leave one guy in there to get the shooter.  If you match-up with all 5 guys on offense, and each guy does their job keeping their man from getting the board, you win the game.

Take a look at the video one more time and watch #3 on Monmouth, who’s lined up on the right hand side of the shooter (the same side that the game-winning 3 actually comes from).  Watch what he does on the play.  Essentially, he does nothing.  He doesn’t pinch in to block out, he doesn’t block out the shooter, he doesn’t match-up on the perimeter.  He stands and watches, and will only be helpful if the ball happens to come his way.  It doesn’t, it gets knocked out past him, and his team loses the game.

In the intentional miss scenario, each one of your players needs a specific assignment.  Don’t let anyone simply react to what happens when the ball comes off.  Everyone of them has to be assigned to an opponent.  If not, you are at the mercy of the bounce of the ball, as Monmouth found out.

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