Late Game Basketball Considerations at Villanova

After the skill work portion of practice, the entire practice was scored and competitive. And from the look of it, the teams were balanced with blue going against white. As a result, there were points in the practice for Coach Jay Wright and his staff to teach late game situational basketball at Villanova.

Given their knack for shooting and making three-pointers, a great opportunity arrived for them to utilize a shot fake to get a three-shot foul. The blue team trailed by three points with seven seconds remaining. They took a three to tie and missed, but the offense retrieved a long rebound. The rebound led to a kick out three (something they practice in any situation).  Rather than panic and shoot quick, the shooter got his man in the air with a shot fake and then leaned in to get contact.

Coach Wright took the time then and there to praise the offense’s execution. Given the situation, defenses are going to be especially leery of the three point shot and it is an opportunity to draw a three-shot foul.

All of this comes with a huge caveat. What if the defense fouls (as they probably should against a team built on making three’s)? More on that below.

Failure to Execute

Coach Wright was teaching throughout the entirety of the five on five competition. The tempo was not at all game-like in this practice. At one such point, the blue team trailed by two scores with roughly twenty-five seconds remaining. During a timeout, he told them what he was looking for. On the ensuing play, they quickly got a hoop. Unfortunately they forgot the other part of their instruction which was to ask for a timeout.

In an actual game, Coach Wright could call that timeout from the sideline. The point he was trying to get across was to get the players to be engaged in a late game situation. His exact words were, “You’re all smart, but we have to be in a huddle with a clear head.”

Free Throws

In these situational games, free throws frequently crop up. As any television viewer of the game can relate, this component tends to be a drag on the entertainment. Coach Wright only had players shoot one free throw in situational basketball. Safe to say the reason had nothing to do with television viewers, but I think what it does is helps make optimal use of the time that they have. Getting players to wait for fifteen seconds on one of their teammates to go through a routine can take up significant time when you multiply how many free throws occur.

The length of this practice came out to a hair over three hours in addition to whatever time they had spent beforehand on film. For many coaches out there, this sort of time commitment is not possible to meet. Thus, cutting down on the free throw attempts is one way to counteract the time obstacle. Additionally, coaches could say the free throws are misses or makes to create a situation for the team to see.

Attention to Details

Coach Wright also worked on scenarios in which they were taking free throws and might need to foul the defensive rebounder. This is a consideration I had never given to practice, but should merit consideration. Most coaches want to foul when up three and with the clock  in single digits. When that happens, there is a high potential for missing a second free throw on purpose. When the defense grabs the rebound, they must foul immediately.

Coach Wright used one SLOB the entire practice, but in a close and late situation he employed a counter to try to get an easy lay-up. Villanova tried a similar idea with a baseline out of bounds play. Everything the team did with close and late situations convinced me that I do not do enough.

I subscribe to the Coaching Toolbox and one of the things I found on their recently that was pretty useful is a checklist for late game situations. Coaches can modify it to fit their own agendas to enhance late game I.Q. There are never enough timeouts at the end of the game, so players need to be trained to think like a coach.

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