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Marquette vs. Louisville: A tale of 3 boxouts

With just over 2 minutes to go in regulation, Marquette found itself down 5 points to Louisville, staring down a loss in a critical, winnable game.

Of course, it’s been almost 3 days since the final buzzer sounded, so you already know that Marquette managed to score 9 points in the next 5 possessions and get the game into overtime, where it pulled out a much-needed 3-point victory in the extra session. But I wanted to focus on 3 plays in that time-frame that don’t necessarily make the boxscore on any given game, yet made all the difference in the world.

With Marquette down just 3 and having stifled any sort of penetration, Lousiville gets a defensive switch between Theo John and Markus Howard. John does a good job contesting the ensuing shot but that leaves Markus on his own to defend 6-foot-8 Akoy Agau from grabbing the board.

The live speed does not do Howard’s boxout justice.

Howard is able to back Agau up from the edge of the restricted area all the way to the baseline, putting Agau in a position where he wouldn’t be able to grab the board no matter what funny angle it took off the bounce. When coaches teach smaller players to box out, that should be near the top of the playlist. It allowed Sam to easily corral the board and kept the Cards from extending the possession or adding to the lead.

A few possessions later, it was Joey Hauser’s turn to teach boxing out 101.

At 230 pounds, Joey has 55 pounds on Howard, and was facing an opponent with a similar build, so this video isn’t as aesthetically pleasing, but it’s even more important to the end result. Joey receives a hard shove in the back and barely flinches, using his legs to ground the energy and then push back against the Louisville player. His little step backward knocks the Louisville player off balance and allows Joey to basically go up unimpeded, where he’s able to tie the game with under 30 seconds to go.

If Joey had been standing straight up instead of crouching, he may not have had the leverage to withhold the defender and go up in one motion. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have gotten the rebound or gotten a foul called against the Cards, but by executing with perfect technique and gritty effort, Joey put himself in the best possible position to influence the game.

Alas, the final example also includes Joey, but isn’t quite as exemplary. Having substituted Brendan Bailey for John during the previous possession, Marquette was forced to play with Joey at the 5 for the final possession of regulation.

As Louisville’s Darius Perry rises up for 3, Joey, who was previously roaming the paint in anticipation of a dribble drive, rushes back to box out the Louisville player nearest the rim. Unfortunately, so was his brother Sam.

It’s not exactly Joey’s fault, I think Sam was responsible for the perimeter player to begin with, and should have prevented him from reaching the rim so easily, but do to a miscommunication on something as elementary as boxing out, Louisville had a point blank layup to win the game.

I’m not a coach or a player, and have never have been, so I tend to stick to the hard numbers to provide commentary or analysis. But as these 3 clips show, there is so much more to basketball than what a box score or Ken Pom can capture.

Marquette beat Louisville on Friday night because it did a lot of the small things correctly down the stretch, and because they got extremely fortunate when they didn’t. Boxing out isn’t something any non-coach will stress as important prior to a game, but in a close contest, good box outs can mean all the difference.

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