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Beating a zone defense is as easy as one, 2-3

The Fresno State men’s and women’s basketball teams have both struggled to score against zone defenses this season. On Saturday, both teams executed and dissected the 2-3 zone to perfection.

The key to success against a zone defense is to exercise patience. Being patient is often difficult for teams like Fresno State that revel in playing at a high tempo. Quick shots play right into the defense’s hands. Good spacing, crisp passing, unselfishness and penetration are necessary to open the defense and create the best scoring opportunity.

Normally, isolation and dribble penetration can be effective ways to penetrate the defense. However, against the zone, dribble penetration becomes much more difficult. The need for good outside shooters is often recognized to help bust-open the zone defense.

In addition to shooters, teams must also have a talented player in the high post that can pass and score.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball team’s both used talented players in the high post to help break New Mexico State’s zone.

Fresno State women’s head coach Adrian Wiggins used forwards Brittani Green and Jenny Thigpin to flash to the ball at the free-throw line extended and set screens at the top of the key for guard Tierre Wilson. Through ball-screens, the two forwards were able to allow Wilson to penetrate the Aggies’ defense and create scoring chances. Thigpin was also a scoring threat inside and her ability to score forced the Aggies’ defense to collapse inside and allowed Fresno State player’s like Paige Diggs to cut to the basket for easy buckets.

The Fresno State men’s team also used high-low plays to score easy baskets inside. While Wiggins used his power players up top, men’s head coach Steve Cleveland utilized his versatile forward Quinton Hosley. The ability of Hosley to knock down mid-range jump shots allowed Fresno State to attack the zone inside and outside.

Hosley continually found forward Dominic McGuire cutting to the basket underneath. When McGuire wasn’t open, Hosley used diagonal passing to find outside shooters Eddie Miller and Hector Hernandez spotted up from the outside.

Although he only had two assists in the game, Hosley constantly exploited the zone when it was out of position by finding guard Kevin Bell. With two strong shooters on the outside, the Aggies’ defense sat off of Bell, daring him to shoot.

Quick passing from Hosley combined with penetration and swing passes from Bell created the openings from the outside that Miller and Hernandez exploited.

The Bulldogs only made nine of its 31 3-point attempts, but Fresno State was able to exploit another weakness of the Aggies’ zone defense after missed shots. Zone defenses are susceptible to giving up offensive rebounds because players underneath do not have traditional block-out assignments.

The Fresno State men’s team was able to grab 14 offensive rebounds and the women’s team grabbed 16 offensive rebounds against the 2-3-zone defense. Offensive rebounds lead to second chance points inside and open outside shots on kick-out passes.

If Fresno State’s basketball teams are patient, unselfish and execute, the difficulties against the zone will continue to be a problem of the past.