Two back-to-back possessions decided the outcome of Boston College men’s basketball’s 78-73 loss to No. 23 North Carolina State yesterday. Both head coaches, BC’s Steve Donahue and NC State’s Mark Gottfried, had the opportunity to draw up plays coming out of timeouts. With under two minutes left and BC down by one, the Eagles tried to pull ahead but couldn’t find a good look. Scott Wood then drained a dagger for the Wolfpack on the next possession off of a perfectly designed play which would all but seal a victory for his team. Here’s a breakdown showing how both plays developed and what BC could have done differently.
Lonnie Jackson inbounds to Olivier Hanlan with 1:27 left and the Eagles down 69-68. BC has a great opportunity coming out of a timeout to run a play and take a lead, putting the pressure back on the Wolfpack. Hanlan swings the ball around to Patrick Heckmann who then hits Joe Rahon. Hanlan exchanges spots with Lonnie Jackson.
Rahon quickly hits Heckmann who swings it back to Jackson. Ryan Anderson remains isolated on the block, but does not post up while this action takes place on the perimeter.
Then Rahon sets a screen on the man guarding Heckmann, forward C.J. Leslie, and Jackson kicks it back to the other side of the court.
When Heckmann catches the pass, he has guard Lorenzo Brown on him because the Wolfpack were forced to switch on Rahon’s screen. Heckmann dribbles to the corner, but doesn’t attack Brown. Anderson then moves ball-side to post up as Heckmann passes back up to Rahon.
Rather than feed Anderson inside letting the big man go to work for a basket or a trip to the line, Donahue calls for Anderson to set a screen for Rahon. With Leslie on Rahon and another forward, Richard Howell, checking Anderson, BC should have the advantage running a guard/forward pick-and-roll against two forwards. If Donahue’s goal with all of that extra action was to get this matchup, then it worked. It makes sense to put the ball in Rahon’s reliable hands, and to have the versatile Anderson as the screener.
Howell steps out to check Rahon who starts driving to the lane. As Rahon attacks he’ll have very good shooters spotting up around the arc, a smart and effective big man rolling to the rim, and the ability to drive on one of the forwards defending him with the potential to draw a foul.
Howell plays good defense on Rahon, but Rahon gets into the lane and has a few options here. He can lob the ball up to Anderson who looks like he has Leslie sealed, he can try to kick it out to Hanlan in the corner or Jackson up top and either one can launch a three or drive on a close-out, or Rahon can continue going to the rim.
Rahon makes the unwise decision to try and score on his own and as Howell switches over to Anderson, the long and athletic Leslie comes over to challenge a tough fade-away runner by Rahon. Hanlan is open in the corner and Anderson now has Howell sealed, but Rahon is too far into his shooting motion to pass. He puts up a tough shot that falls short. NC State gets the rebound and dribbles it up the court. Gottfried calls a timeout and takes his own chance to set up a play.
Wood, the Wolfpack’s deadly shooter, inbounds the ball to Brown and then runs to the block. Donahue has Jackson, who has not been very good chasing offensive players around screens, covering Wood.
Then Wood comes off the block and catches on the perimeter. Brown comes back to get the ball and Wood takes off on a curl to the rim as Jackson chases him with a screen from Howell waiting.
Brown could probably safely throw a lob up to Wood right here for an easy two points given how well Howell set the pick on Jackson, but he doesn’t need to. As Jackson sprints to catch up to Wood, Howell turns around to set another screen and Wood changes course. He then heads back up to the top of the key and Jackson gets caught up with Howell for long enough to give Wood space to launch a three.
This is more than enough space for Wood, who drains the shot and puts the Wolfpack too far out of reach for the Eagles. BC would have another chance later in the game, but NC State won these two pivotal possessions that mattered the most. If BC could’ve found success on either one the game might have ended differently. On first viewing, it didn’t look like Donahue designed much of a play for his team, but after watching it a few times that wasn’t the case. He put Rahon in a position to create and got the pick-and-roll mismatch he wanted. Rahon decided to pursue the one option that definitely was not going to work, but his aggression is difficult to condemn. Gottfried went with a much more simple approach. Donahue’s play had four different scoring options, while Gottfried’s really only had one, Wood’s 3-pointer. With Jackson covering Wood, the result of the play was almost a foregone conclusion. Rahon or Hanlan probably could’ve stuck with Wood a little better, but that would’ve meant putting Jackson on Purvis or Brown which would’ve been a liability to get beat off the dribble.