Understanding Box Split

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In the final 30 seconds of Saturday’s game with North Carolina, Virginia faced a 58-56 deficit with possession of the ball under UNC’s basket. Going into a timeout called by the Tar Heels, UVa coach Tony Bennett had decisions to make. Go for the win or tie? Who takes the shot? Where does the flow of the play go?

The answers to those questions are not limitless. With no post-up threat to dump the ball to on the blocks and let him go to work, the play likely was going to a guard. With no clear-cut go-to option or NBA-style alpha male style player, the play likely was going to be something with screening action vs. a clear-out set. In a similar situation last January against UNC Wilmington, Bennett opted for a screening action play that featured Sylven Landesberg coming off a down screen for a mid-range jumper. ( Read about that play here.)

On Saturday against UNC, Virginia’s second-year coach settled on a play familiar to his team that has been used throughout his tenure in Charlottesville. It’s not a surprising choice for a team full of inexperienced players in key roles. In other words, take some pressure out of the situation by making the play something where everyone is familiar with their roles.

The play is called ‘box split.’

“It was an option to get [Joe Harris ] a look and then if not, we had a ball screen action coming out of it,” Bennett said. “The first option was really there. I liked the feet set and the look he had. I will look at it on tape; I think he thought the guy was going to close and maybe he’d pump-fake him. I could have drawn it for [Mustapha Farrakhan ], or KT [Harrell] or Joe. Nobody was really lighting it up in the second half and Joe has a really quick release. That’s why I called it for him; I thought he could get it off if he had it. It was just a simple little play.”

The Hoos have used ‘box split’ frequently this season, particularly out of timeouts, with quite a bit of success. Harris himself made several jumpers out of the set in several early games this season. The most notable missed shot out of ‘box split’ for Harris came in the win at Virginia Tech; the Cavaliers ran the play out of a timeout for Harris and did