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Purdue Basketball: Pick Your Poison

Texas tried to play Trevion Williams straight up in the post. That was a mistake.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Purdue vs Texas Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

I could write about 30 of these on the Texas game alone, but alas, time is not on my side. I was looking for a play that best encapsulates what went right for Purdue, and what went wrong for Texas. This simple play best exemplifies Purdue’s strategy on offense, and Texas’s strategy on defense (minus the fouling, which was their main strategy).

Purdue’s interior play forces teams to pick their poison. They can either double Tre and Zach, put their defense into scramble mode, and get picked apart from the outside by Purdue’s outside shooters, or Jaden Ivey driving to the basket. Doubling Tre is especially problematic because he’s an excellent passer. Chris Beard decided to play straight up, and make Purdue beat them 2 points at a time. I wasn’t surprised by this strategy, but I think it was misguided.

We’ve watched Tre long enough to know where the big man excels and where he struggles. A matchup with Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson, for instance, isn’t great for Tre. Dickinson is somewhere around 7’0” tall and 260 pounds. Tre can’t go through him, and he has a hard time shooting over him, even with his hook shot. Texas didn’t have anyone like Hunter Dickinson on their roster.

On this play, Tre is being checked by 6’9”, 230 pound Dylan Disu. Tre is going to bully someone that size all game long, and Disu was the biggest Texas had to offer. If he can get his body into a defender and move him back, his game opens up. All the shimmys and shakes are more effective, and he doesn’t have to worry about getting his shot blocked. Tre was an absolute bully against Texas.

4 Out


Perimeter Players - Green Triangle

Mason Gillis - Yellow Circle

Trevion Williams - Red Square

Hunter Jr. pushes the ball in transition, gets cut off, and sets up the offense. Purdue needed him to step up and run the offense this year, and after a slow start, he has settled into the role.

Purdue is running a 4 around 1 set on this play. All 3 perimeter players (green triangle) are threats from deep. Gillis (yellow circle) is also a solid outside shooter. You’ll notice on this play he starts way outside the 3 point line, and his defender has to respect his ability to shoot. This makes the entry pass much easier for Hunter Jr.

Tre (red square) posts up deep on his sweet spot on the left block. I was shocked Texas allowed him to get to the left block without much of fight, but they did so all game.

Entry Pass

Hunter Jr. delivers a solid entry pass over his defender. He’s a lanky 6’4” with long arms, making him a solid option to make an entry pass. You’ll notice that as soon as Hunter Jr. releases the pass, Gillis dives to the rim. If his defender gets caught flat footed, Tre hits him for a dunk.

Sasha is set up in the corner, holding his defender out of the paint, and Ivey is sort of meandering on the strong side, with his defender locked onto him at all times.

Tre is set up midway up the lane, and gives Hunter Jr. and easy target.


Gillis makes it to his position on the right block, and his defender followed. Many teams won’t bring a guy to the opposite block, because his defender is in solid position to double the post. That doesn’t matter in this case. Tre eats up big to big double teams with his passing ability. Painter is inviting Texas to double the post. They decline.

Sasha moves up the court towards the elbow extended on the right side to give Ivey room to cut across on the diagonal. Hunter Jr. is hanging out at the top of the ready to fire if his defender gets nosey and attempts to dig down on Tre.

Jaden, well, Jaden sort of loafs on this play. We’ll call it energy conservation. In theory, he needs to cut hard to clear out the side to make sure his defender can’t dig down on Tre. In reality, he sort of jogs because he knows he’s not getting the ball.

Still Cutting

As soon as Jaden clears out his defender, Tre gets into his move set. In theory, Jaden should already be in the corner, and ready in case they rotate down with the double team, but again, we’ll call this an energy conservation cut.

Gillis is spaced out far enough to give Tre an easy pass if they do bring the big to big double.

Sasha and Hunter Jr. are ready to shoot if either Longhorn defender digs down on Tre, or if they go into rotation from a big to big double team.

Old School

You’re going to have to trust me on this one, but Tre gives a shoulder fake towards the baseline, buries his defender and then spins middle and gets to his hook shot over the left shoulder. This is his pet move, and I’m still shocked Texas let him get to his spot all game. The disrespect was incredible, especially when it was clear Tre was cooking.

Since the double team doesn’t come, the perimeter players aren’t involved. Sasha is starting to get back on defense and Jaden is sort of walking towards the other end of the court. Hunter Jr. is sticking around, but shows no interest in crashing.

Gillis, on the other hand, is busting his ass to get into rebounding position. This is a game of 2 on 2.


I will once again mention how shocked I am that Texas let Tre get his hook shot without much resistance, while being guarded by an undersized defender. Tre would rather take this shot than spin baseline and try and elevate over the help defender. He makes this shot in his sleep over a thin 6’9” defender. It’s not fair.

Gillis, as I mentioned before, is working hard to get into position for a potential rebound, but all he gets for his effort is a chance to watch the ball go through the net.

In Conclusion

Texas decided not to bring the double team against Tre and Tre made them pay. I was surprised Beard didn’t switch out of this defense, but with Ramey face guarding Ivey most of the game, it was going to be tough to rotate. Texas had to pick their poison, and it killed them. To be fair, the other poison (doubling the post and putting their defense into rotation) probably kills them as well.

Vs St. Peters

St. Peters beat Kentucky by letting star big man Oscar Tshiebwe eat (30 points) and shutting down everyone else (only 1 other Wildcat hit double figures). Purdue has solid shooters (in theory) and Jaden Ivey. I’ll take the team with Jaden, even if he doesn’t cut hard all the time.

Check back later, and I’ll break down the Peacocks defense against the Wildcats. I think Purdue will see something similar Friday night.