Updated: Feb 14, 2022
Winning big games down the stretch will typically come down to one factor over any other - shot selection. I don't mean whether your team takes terrible shots or not, but rather can they avoid the shots that have an eFG% of 35%-45% and instead be selective enough to only take ones that have an eFG% of 50% or higher.
Teams that win big games are able to turn down good shots and hunt great ones more often than their opponents.
In this single clip from the Villanova men's basketball team, there are four different examples of players who turn down good shots, and eventually, they got a great shot at the end of the possession. The type of shot that wins you games down the stretch.
Below I've broken down each potential shot from the clip. As an FYI, the second example is one nearly every single player needs to learn from!
The 1st turndown by Colin Gillespie (#2) is one that most HS players will probably turn into a shot. As he hunts the world (more on those here), space is created when his defender falls down. Yet instead of taking a contested jumper or off-balance floater in the mid-paint, Gillespie finds a teammate who's closer to the rim and appears to have a bigger advantage.
The second turn down on this possession is easily my favorite! Villanova's Eric Dixon (#43) catches the ball deep in the paint. For most players, this is a shot they automatically take, and one their coaches teach them to take as well. However, this would be the textbook example of a good shot (and not a great one). Because of the defensive rotation, it would end up being a highly contested rim finish, and even at the highest level (NBA), it’s a shot that's made less than half the time (46.5%). If those are the best finishers in the world, that percentage would only go down at the college and high school levels.
This 3rd example is a great turndown by Jermaine Samuels (#23). Even though Samuels is WIDE OPEN off the kick-out from the paint, he’s simply not shot-ready. Neither his feet nor his body positioning is on balance or in rhythm to take a great shot. Instead of shooting it just because he’s open (as most high school and college players typically do), Samuels knows that he’s off-balance & not in rhythm, so he immediately swings the ball to gain a bigger advantage on the play. Great decision!
The final example is a really smart shot turn down as well. Even though Gillespie’s a 42% 3-pt shooter, he recognizes that his defender is attacking with hard closeout, and so he uses a peek fake to beat his defender and begin a downhill attack. This forces the off-ball defense to rotate, and Gillespie engages a second defender on his attack towards the rim. This simple decision creates additional time & space for Samuels (who’s now shot-ready) to get a wide-open, uncontested three-point shot. The type of shot that wins you big games. #Splash