Synergy: Where Cohen and Brooks help Davidson the most

Last night Andrei detailed the type of player Marquette will face in Nik Cochran, an efficient sharpshooter for the Davidson Wildcats. He may be the one to cripple Marquette from beyond the arc if the Golden Eagles can’t contain him, but the meat and potatoes of their defensive efforts will come in stopping forwards Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks, the Wildcats’ two leading scorers.

While the 6-foot-7 Brooks is the more athletic of the two, it’s Cohen who has more flexibility to step outside and hit and hit an open jumper. In fact, Cohen takes almost twice as many jump shots (95) as Brooks (50), while hitting at a much better rate (43 percent to Brooks’ 20 percent).

Brooks and Cohen spent almost the identical amount of time in the low-post (38.5 percent for Cohen, 36.1 percent for Brooks), while Brooks shows off his athleticism, quickness and ability to drive off the dribble by his 44.1 percent mark of playing “around the basket,” compared to Cohen’s 26.8 percent.

So now that we have the pair’s individual skill-sets out of the way–Cohen is a talented stretch-4 who excels both inside and out, while Brooks is best playing 15-feet-in and using his athleticism and strength to create space around the rim– it’s time to look at where each player is best on the floor.

(Note: Because Synergy does not have every minute of every Davidson game this year, some numbers will be slightly off compared with actual totals.)


Like any good inside-out forward, Cohen has proven his worth on the perimeter. He’s shooting almost 39 percent from beyond the arc and, according to Synergy,  a respectable 33.3 percent on long jumpers. His 1.22 points per possession on “jump shots” rank in the 93rd percentile in the country, proving he’s much more than a banger inside who takes the occasional mid-range/3-point shot.

But in breaking down those Synergy numbers, another stat popped up that showed off his impressive arsenal. Within Davidson’s numerous picks-and-cuts offense, Cohen has established himself as an impressive catch and shoot shooter.


Looking quickly into these numbers one step further, 28.5 percent of the time Cohen attempts a field goal, it’s of the catch-and-shoot variety. Combining both unguarded and guarded numbers put him in the 91th percentile of all shooters. And if Marquette leaves him open or allows him to get free, there are few shooters in the Tournament who shoot better than Cohen off a catch-and-shoot.

Looking at an albeit small sample size, a fair amount of Cohen’s jump shots come off the trail, much like Marquette does with Jamil Wilson. Here’s one example, late in Davidson’s Feb. 14 win at College of Charleston. (Note: You can click on the images to enlarge them.)

Off a turnover, Davidson brings the ball up the court, but Charleston is able to retreat to their man-t0-man defense. Nik Cochran (yellow dot) has the ball on the right wing, while Cohen (black dot) trails the play, almost out of the picture as the offense sets up. Cohen’s defender, Adjehi Baru (blue dot), fails to play Cohen up at the top of the key, choosing to sag in the paint. Big mistake.


Junior Tom Droney (to the left of ball handler Cochran in the first screenshot) senses the play and clears out, leaving Cohen wide open at the top of the key. Cochran found his man, and Cohen drained a clutch 3-pointer that began a 15-2 Davidson run to help the Wildcats pull away.


Cohen is going to try and play inside as much as he can to force Marquette into foul trouble, but his outside shooting prowess, especially on catch-and-shoot plays, is something Marquette must plan for. Otherwise Cohen could have another big NCAA Tournament opener, like when he scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a loss to Louisville a year ago.


Brooks’ scoring numbers are down from a year ago, but he still has been one of the league’s best inside scorers. His inside skill set is similar to Jamil Wilson’s, where he seems most comfortable receiving the ball outside the painted area where he has options, rather than down-low, where a post move is required.

Synergy statistics back that notion up, as 7.7 percent of Brooks’ looks at the basket come on isolation. That number is slightly above the team’s average, and a relatively high number for a forward (Jamil Wilson’s is 6 percent).

Brooks has been superb on isolation moves, ranking in the 97th percentile in the country, based on points per possession.


Back to the screenshots, we fast-forward to Davidson’s March 11 game against Charleston in the Southern Conference Championship.

We start with Nik Cochran (yellow dot) taking the ball to the left wing while Brooks (black dot) sets a screen for JP Kuhlman. Brooks’ defender, sixth man Trent Wiederman (blue dot) waits for the screen action to occur.

In the next slide, Brooks (black dot) pops out from about 15 feet and takes the pass from Cochran (yellow dot). Wiederman (blue dot) sags off Brooks, likely knowing the Davidson forward makes just 20 percent of his jump shots. But the key here is that the Charleston guard defending Cochran, one of the better 3-point shooters in the country, can’t help on the isolation move Brooks it about to perform. It’s a pick your poison technique that Davidson exploits.


Only when Brooks (black dot) has committed to taking the ball to the basket can Cochran’s defender try and help Wiederman (blue dot) on the drive. That defender can only give a lazy swipe at the ball while Brooks takes and makes a high percentage shot, extending Davidson’s lead to 12, 22-10.


Therein lies the issue for teams trying to guard Brooks. While this is just a small sample size of watching Davidson, it’s not difficult to figure out that Brooks is good enough inside that it makes sense to put an interior defender on him. However, plays like the one above make it so that taller, slower players who help in the post also can be exposed when Brooks goes into an isolation move. It’s almost a given that Jamil Wilson will defend Brooks a large portion of Thursday’s game, and he’ll need to show off the switchable skill set to limit him.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Synergy


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