KANSAS City, Mo.–Over the second half of the season West Virginia University has struggled at times with the press and it hasn’t been as effective as it once was.
For instance, Kansas State seemed to have the press figured out in the semifinal matchup against the Mountaineers but Bob Huggins’ squad pulled out a different trick and switched to the 1-3-1-zone defense.
“We just wanted to switch it up,” WVU forward Esa Ahmad said. They was getting a lot of run-outs in the press. We just wanted to switch it up and see how they adjusted.”
“We didn’t do a very good job on our man and about, I don’t know, three weeks ago we decided to try a little bit of the 1-3-1,” Huggins said. “I’m not very smart, but I’m smart enough when it works keep doing it. It’s been pretty good for us.”
It was a scheme the Mountaineers have worked on all season but just started implementing into their game.
“We’ve worked on it all year but we kind of put it in the last five games or so,” forward Nathan Adrian said. “It’s kind of worked for us.”
And it worked in the final seconds of WVU’s win over the Wildcats.
“They were trying to ball screen to two guys that were supposed to guard the ball,” Adrian said. “Esa came over and helped well, which he was supposed to do and they couldn’t get towards the basket.”
So just what is the 1-3-1 and why was it so effective for the Mountaineers?
The 1-3-1-zone defense gives teams the advantage of applying pressure outside the arc and high post and it allows for trapping.
Some may remember the 1-3-1 from John Beilein’s tenure in Morgantown. The current Michigan head coach loves the 1-3-1 and it has caused havoc for opponents on several occasions.
It slows the opposition down and it protects the paint. The tall player at the top of the key keeps players from driving down the middle and the defenders on the wings guard against the sides. The post player is up around the foul line instead of under the basket and the point guard is at the bottom of zone and has the most responsibility.
“We put J.C. (Jevon Carter) on the wing and put Nate underneath because they were trying to lob it to D.J. (Johnson),” Huggins said. “I wanted size back there, but other than that we didn’t do anything, just switched personnel.”
Instead of being able to lob it over the top to Johnson for an easy basket, K-State was perplexed and unable to get off the shot.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS