Gonzaga – Handling Pressure

By John Leonzo

Nigel Williams-Goss

Gonzaga has rolled to their first Final Four and Championship Game in program history. Handling pressure has been a key to Gonzaga’s success this season.

As we prep for the national championship game, I wanted to take some time to talk about how Gonzaga attacked the pressure of South Carolina’s Pressure Defense in the Final Four game this past weekend. Teams that play at a high level not only handle pressure but use it to their advantage and make the defense pay for playing that style. Gonzaga did this with a few different concepts that we will see below.


False Motion Prior To Pick & Roll

False motion can be a great way to get the hedge man off the screener prior to a pick and roll action occur. Gonzaga did this on the first play of the game by having Karnowski set a back screen prior to ball screening. This forced Karnowski’s man to help, even for just a second, making it very hard to hedge hard and blow up the high pick and roll with an aggressive hedge.

Gonzaga – Rip High

Rip High


Spacing And Back Door Cuts

The second way to utilize and use pressure to your advantage is to clear the paint with off-ball action and then have a cutter attack the rim by going back door. This was the first play that the Zags ran out of halftime. The double screen and curl action sucks up the two defenders guarding both forwards, creating an open lane. Additionally, the spin dribble by the point guard to quickly get away from the action and face the cutter is essential. This is a great way to attack a team that thrives in denial.

Gonzaga – Double Go

Double Go


Have Your PG Inbound The Ball/Start Press Break Higher

Another adjustment that was made by the Zags in order to combat the full court pressure of South Carolina was to have their PG inbound the ball. This allowed the PG to be open on a toss back out of the initial trap and easily relieved the full court pressure late in the game.

The other adjustment made out of the press break by the Zags was to begin their break above the 3pt line. This forces the defense to guard more space, as well as gives the offense room to cut to, making it easier to inbound the ball versus pressure. Regardless of how you break a press, both concepts can help your team instantaneously.

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 6.56.16 AM

Handling pressure is key to being a good basketball team, and the Zags do it very well. I hope that the ideas and concepts discussed above prove to be helpful to you and your team in the future!


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John Leonzo

John Leonzo

John Leonzo is the CEO of John Leonzo Basketball where he seeks to provide the highest quality training for both players and coaches. Through on the court training with players and online courses for coaches, John is able to make an impact in all the areas of the game.
John Leonzo

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March 25, 2017 – San Jose, CA, USA – Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss (5) rushes the court with teammates after an 83-59 win against Xavier in the NCAA Tournament’s West Region final at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, March 25, 2017. (Credit Image: � Jim Gensheimer/TNS via ZUMA Wire)
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