We were down 3 to Creighton in the 2nd half this week with about 15 minutes to play. They were in a pretty good flow on offense, getting the shots they wanted and we had been fortunate they missed some shots they normally make. Creighton is the best 3-point shooting team in the league, and one of the best in the country. Our game plan was to guard them man to man and take away their 3s.
I’ve always been a man to man guy as a head coach. I believe in having a defined defensive system that you can work on every day and get your guys to believe in. Some of my teams at RIC went an entire season without playing a possession of zone or any other defense. When we were really good, we guarded, and the way we guarded became our calling card.
However I learned that no matter how committed you are to playing a certain kind of defense, you always have to have something different in your arsenal in case you need it. There are nights where even the best defensive teams are out of sync or your opponents offense is just flowing. While you may not want to change defenses as a head coach (and believe me, I rarely did), sometimes you just need to change the rhythm of your opponent. When they’ve got a great offensive flow going and they are getting the shots they want, a different defense can simply disrupt that flow. It can change their timing, it can change their pace, and it can change where they are getting their shots from. Sometimes it’s a simple as doing something different.
You may look at a team with great shooters and think there’s no way you want to play them zone, but a lot of times great offensive teams like to execute their stuff because they know exactly how to get the shots they want. By changing defenses, you force them into a different way of attacking on offense and it can change the rhythm of their offense.
We were fortunate that Creighton struggled against our zone the other night. But simply by changing defenses we interrupted the flow of the game and changed the pace just a little bit. They never really got into a flow on offense against our zone, and we stayed in it for most of the final 15 minutes. Creighton ended up scoring just 20 points in the second half and we won the game by 16.
The point being that no matter how committed you are to defending a certain way, you should always have something reliable that you can go to just to change the rhythm of your opponent. No matter how good you are defensively there will be nights when they get into a great flow, and simply by changing what they see you can disrupt that flow and possibly change the complexion of the game.