Mon Feb 04 10:20am EST
Nerlens Noel's passing ability is a somewhat underrated component of his game. It makes sense; his defense is so dominating and his offensive game is improving. But Noel's shown control of the ball when he's in the paint, even under pressure. He's got 37 assists and 38 turnovers on the season, a solid enough ratio for a center.
In this play, Noel gets double-teamed in the post. He remains poised, looks for the open guy, and finds Julius Mays for an open 3-pointer.
Texas A&M forward Elston Turner said their strategy of doubling the post in the first half gave Mays clean looks that propelled him toward his 19-point game.
"We started out wanting to get the ball out of the post, and that’s kind of what got (Mays) going," Turner said. "We were helping and had to rotate and he was able to hit shots. Second half, he was already feeling it."
Let's take a look at the play:
The first action is a Harrow-Noel high screen. It comes pretty far up the floor, and Noel's defender will slide over to cut off Harrow as Harrow's man recovers.
The screen worked well, and Noel's defender lingers a bit longer -- and gets a bit higher -- than needed. Harrow has two potential options here -- a quick feed to a rolling Noel or a swing pass to Mays, whose man is helping down on Noel.
Harrow swings it to Mays, but it's a bit too late. Noel's defender had recovered, allowing Mays' defender to close back out on him.
Mays feeds Noel an entry pass, then moves along the 3-point line to give Noel space on the left block. Noel is completely isolated, with all four of his teammates on the opposite side of the court. A&M can either let him go one-on-one or help off a man.
Harrow's man quickly doubles down as Noel starts to back into a post move. Noel brings the ball up, looking for a pass, and here's where his patience, vision and decision-making come on full display. Mays' defender tries to anticipate the pass to Harrow -- who initially looked like the easiest pass, since it was his man who helped down -- and tries to wait on Noel's pass and intercept it.
However, Noel fakes to Harrow, getting Mays' defender to jump at it, before zipping a pass to Mays, waiting at the 3-point line.
Mays catches it with space, and here he has two options: shoot it as Wiltjer's man rotates over, or give it to Wiltjer for what would likely also be a clean look.
Mays takes (and makes) the shot, giving UK a seven-point lead.
Mays has shown more confidence shooting since SEC play began. He's shooting 47.4 percent from behind the arc in eight conference games after shooting 30.8 percent in nonconference games.
His improved shooting is a big key for UK, which, besides Wiltjer, lacks a consistently accurate high-volume perimeter shooter.
“Julius, without him, we don’t win today," John Calipari said after the game.