Film Room: How Auburn got Aden Holloway going again vs. Indiana
The 5-star freshman was in a cold spell, but it didn't take long at all for the Tigers to heat him back up in a blowout win over the Hoosiers.
PG Aden Holloway (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Heading into Saturday’s game against Indiana in Atlanta, Aden Holloway was the poster child of what Auburn basketball was going through as a team on offense.
Holloway started his college career with a bang, recording 19 points and hitting four 3-pointers in Auburn’s high-scoring loss to Baylor in South Dakota. He hit three more triples in his home debut against Southeastern Louisiana, followed by four more in Brooklyn against Notre Dame.
Then the former 5-star point guard’s hot shooting started to cool off. He went 2-7 from deep in back-to-back wins over Saint Bonaventure and Alabama A&M, then he missed all eight of his 3-point attempts against Virginia Tech and Appalachian State.
Like Auburn’s offense as a whole, Holloway wasn’t shooting or scoring like he was during the first couple of weeks of the season. But the Tigers weren’t worried. His head coach and his teammates all said they knew Holloway would bounce back — just like the rest of the team’s attack.
“While we did not shoot the ball well against App State or Virginia Tech, we think we are an improved shooting team,” Bruce Pearl said Saturday night. “Our job this week was just to continue to give these guys confidence. As long as you keep taking good shots, that’s the most important thing.”
And nothing shows the confidence you still have in a shooter going through a rough stretch than drawing up a play for him on the very first possession of the game.
Auburn’s first trip down the floor against Indiana began with Holloway feeding the ball to Johni Broome at the top of the key. The All-SEC center was stretched all the way out to the perimeter, creating a five-out look that has been a new weapon for the Tigers early this season.
Holloway ran down to set an off-ball screen for shooting guard Denver Jones, who would curl around toward Broome at the top of the key. But, instead of taking the ball from Broome on a short pass or continuing for a dribble handoff, Jones stopped and turned to set a screen on the defender who was responsible for Holloway.
Holloway then curled around to take a dribble handoff from Broome, who set another screen on the defender. The initial screener got two screens. It was an action designed to draw all of the attention on the left wing, then free up Holloway into open space.
And Holloway had a tremendous amount of space to pull the trigger. The result was an easy 3-pointer at the top of the key for the freshman phenom.
Auburn knew Indiana preferred using drop coverage against screens. In drop coverage, the defender responsible for the player setting the screen will “drop” back and prevent either the ball-handler or the roll man from getting downhill for a shot at the rim.
“Part of it is Indiana runs that drop ball-screen coverage, so their bigs protect the rim,” Pearl said. “We knew we could get some perimeter shots.”
In the above example, Indiana star center Kel’el Ware dropped back when Broome handed the ball off to Holloway and set an additional screen on point guard Gabe Cupps. Holloway’s matchup, essentially, had to fight through two screens — and, since the Hoosiers weren’t switching on defense, Holloway was going to get plenty of room to shoot the ball.
This was a tone-setter for Holloway, who finished shooting 5-8 from deep and tied Jaylin Williams for a game-high 24 points in Auburn’s 104-76 rout of Indiana.
“It was just coming off screens with them playing drop coverage,” Holloway said. “Just get a little opening and see the rim, get a clean shot off. Didn't really have to draw a foul or anything. I got some clean looks early, which got me going.”
The lopsided victory in Atlanta served as a big return to form for Holloway and the rest of the Auburn offense. Against a bigger and slower Indiana team, Auburn used plenty of pace and space to generate clean looks, with a backcourt filled with jumper-centric guards finally getting to see some of their 3-pointers fall.
No one was a better example of that than Holloway.