Attacking the Zone
The turning point in the Kansas loss is when Bill Self switched to a zone defense. Suddenly the Texas Tech offense, which has been hit-or-miss this season, looked like an absolute mess. Likewise, Oklahoma State started Saturday’s game playing zone, and the Red Raiders got off to a horribly slow start. This isn’t a coincidence.
When faced with a zone, Texas Tech has mostly sat back and just passed the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock runs down, forcing them to take a contested jumper. This is exactly what the zone defense is designed to make you do. Having five players standing still out there is playing right into the defense’s hands.
The best approach is to use off-ball movement and screens to get players open on the inside. When on the perimeter, find a lane and drive to the basket, which forces the defense to collapse. In that scenario, there will almost undoubtedly be an open shooter somewhere. Until the team starts doing this on a consistent basis, opponents will continue to flummox them with the zone.
Tech isn’t built to shoot over a zone. There just aren’t enough quality outside shooters on this roster to make a team pay for playing a zone by bombing away from 3-point range.
But that’s what Beard’s team has tried to do. Against KU, Tech hoisted 23 shots from beyond the arc, and Saturday against OSU, the Red Raiders let it fly 22 times from deep. That’s settling for easy shots and taking the lazy way out.
We can be certain that this year’s opponents are going to be packing it into a zone with great regularity when facing Tech and that means Beard and Co. had better figure out how to get the offense into a rhythm in such instances. Until that happens, this team will continue to struggle to put points on the scoreboard.