Interesting time and score scenario in the Wofford-Kentucky game in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Wofford scored to cut the Kentucky lead to 2 and called time out with 37.8 seconds to play. Out of the time out, Wofford didn’t press or trap, and they weren’t going to foul. They just decided to play defense considering if they got a stop they’d still get one possession to tie or win the game.
It brings up an interesting question in your time and score approach. How much of a differential do you need between the shot and the game clock to just let it play out in a one possession game?
For me, I need at least 10+ seconds of differential. If there is less than 40 seconds left on the clock, I think you have to trap and foul. If I were Wofford, I absolutely would have pressed and then fouled as soon as the ball crossed half court if we couldn’t force a turnover.
Late in the game when you are losing, you generally want to create as many possessions as possible to give yourself a chance to come back. With an :08 differential, your best case scenario is likely getting a stop and getting the ball back with maybe :12-:14 on the clock. And now you have to get the ball up the floor and execute to get a shot to tie or win. You put yourself in a situation where you have limited time and basically everything has to go right. If you play it out and rely on just 1 more possession on each end, you really need each possession to go perfectly.
There are other factors to consider as well. Basically you have decide the odds of you being able to get a clean stop as well as coming down and scoring against their defense. Are those odds better than fouling (perhaps 2-3 times in the final :30) and hoping they miss a free throw so you can close the gap? If you are playing against a poor free throw shooting team I think the decision becomes even easier.
I didn’t like Wofford’s chances of getting a clean stop and coming down and executing to tie the game with only one chance to do both. Kentucky actually did them a favor by going a little quicker than they had to and getting the ball inside with about :17 to play. I thought Wofford played great defense but they got called for a foul on a tough call – something else that you have to consider if you are going to play the possession out. The officials are human too, and one tough call gives Kentucky a chance to make it a two-possession game.
Late in the game if you are the losing team, create as many possessions as you can. Keep in mind that with more possessions you give yourself more opportunities to trade 3 for 2 – where you can actually outscore your opponent even if they execute perfectly and make both free throws.
Force your opponent to execute multiple times (press attack, offense, making free throws) and give them more opportunities to make a mistake. Generally the more possessions you create the more chances you have to come back.