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Buzz draws up identical play, with a twist, for game-winner

In the closing seconds of Marquette’s miraculous comeback win over Davidson, Buzz Williams tinkered with a play that, 12 days earlier, had won him a Big East regular season title. The change was minor, but it made all the difference on Vander Blue’s eventual game-winning layup in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, 59-58.

First we look back to Marquette’s March 9 matchup against St. John’s. With 7.4 seconds remaining, Williams called for a Davante Gardner (white dot) high ball-screen on Vander Blue (blue dot, of course), with Trent Lockett and Junior Cadougan (inbounder) in each corner to rid of any potential help defense. But notice Jamil Wilson (red dot), who starts down-low, where his defender, JaKarr Sampson, is sitting, waiting for Blue’s drive.

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Wilson eventually makes his way back to the 3-point line, trying to clear out space for Blue. But because Sampson (yellow dot) started in the paint and saw time was winding down (3.0 seconds), he knew Blue’s only choice was to shoot. Passing wasn’t an option, making guarding Wilson a non-factor.

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By the time Blue goes up for his layup with 1.6 seconds remaining, both Obekpa and Sampson (yellow dot) are there to contest the shot. Luckily Blue floated it over both, but it wasn’t easy. You can see Gardner (white dot) trailing the play, and Jamil Wilson out near the free throw line.

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So today, in the closing seconds of his tilt with Davidson, Williams found himself in a similar situation, with almost the same amount of time on the clock (6.7) and needing a high-percentage look at the basket. He was awarded an “extra timeout” when the officials went back to look at how much time should be put on the clock after a Davidson turnover, allowing him to draw up almost an identical play to the one on March 9.

But there was one difference that gave Blue a much easier look at the basket.

Looking at the set-up of the play, it almost mirrors the one on March 9. Gardner (white dot) is preparing to set the high ball-screen for Blue (blue dot), while Cadougan and Jake Thomas (where Lockett was vs. St. John’s) stood in the corners, out of the play.

But instead of having Cadougan inbound the ball and putting Wilson (red dot) down-low, trying to force his defender out of the paint when he left, Wilson inbounded the ball and trailed the entire play. His defender (yellow dot) did, too.

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When Blue drove to the basket, Gardner’s defender again switched onto him, same as the St. John’s play. But Blue beat Obekpa, too. It was Sampson coming from the weak side that gave him the most trouble. Except this time, when Blue went past Cohen, there was no one there attempting to block the shot weak-side.

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Because Wilson trailed the play instead of starting down-low, there was absolutely no help defense from the Wildcats once Blue beat the switch. De’Mon Brooks (yellow dot) was in the same defensive position St. John’s Sampson was, but because Williams had Wilson (red dot) trail the play Brooks and his location had no way of getting to the weak-side to help contest the shot.

Both shots went in, and Marquette won both games, but these are the little tweaks that can go unnoticed. Williams had extra time to call the perfect play, and he added his own tweak to it that made it an even higher percentage shot.

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