Early in the first half, Iowa was shredding Indiana’s defense.
The Hawkeyes made their first four shots, scored on their first five possessions, made four of their first 7 3-pointers and were 10 of 17 from the field at the 11:23 mark of the first half.
At one point during the onslaught Nick Bahe, the FS1 color commentator, seemed to disparage the pack-line defense as he recalled looking forward to facing the scheme during his sharpshooting days at Creighton.
Iowa’s fast start fit the narratives coming into the game. The Hawkeyes had the nation’s No. 1 offense in terms of efficiency, and were a top-20 team shooting from behind the 3-point line.
Indiana’s defense had been in steady decline since the start of Big Ten play, and the Hoosiers were the worst team in the Big Ten defending 3-pointers.
But something clicked in the second half to an unimaginable degree. IU held Iowa’s vaunted offense without a field goal for more than 11 minutes.
With an emphasis on effort and and principles that was drilled repeatedly during a week off, Indiana executed the pack-line defense to near perfection at times in the second half.
What does that look like when the pack-line is operating at a peak-level?
Jordan Sperber of Hoop Vision captured a few of Indiana’s better defensive possessions in the second half. Set to music, the Hoosiers’ execution of the defense has an artistic feel. Take a look as IU stymies every Hawkeye attempt to pierce the pack-line with a wave of help concepts.
Indiana pack line defensive rotations from last night pic.twitter.com/SFvpQ0XW7W
— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) January 22, 2021
The pack-line is predicated on strong on-the-ball defense and at times complex help and rotation principles dedicated to funneling the ball to a congested center and forcing it out for contested 3-pointers.
Indiana has variations of how it executes the pack-line depending on the opponent. They will use hard hedges, switching, double teams on the block, and other options based on what they are trying to accomplish.
But these possessions show the core principles being executed at a high level, including the following, many of which are levers that are adjusted situationally:
- press defense on the ball,
- stunts to deter or slow dribbles drives,
- fighting over ball screens to stay in front of shooters,
- going under ball screens when the drive is more of a threat than the shot,
- shows to slow the ball handler after a ball screen,
- tags to help on slips and rolls to the basket.
- controlled close-outs (c/o) on shooters.
- fronting the post to deny entry,
- and help when the pack-line is broken with the dribble-drive.
It is easy to see how easily the defense can break down if everyone isn’t on the same page, but how difficult the pack-line is to play against if operating at a high level.
For a more comprehensive look at Indiana’s defensive effort vs. Iowa from HoopVision, GO HERE.
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