Took in the Horizon League Conference Championship game last night between Butler and Cleveland St. Butler is ranked 16 and sat atop the Horizon League regular season while Cleveland St. was third but had that amazing win over ranked Syracuse earlier in the year.

The Butler Bulldogs went with a packline defense in the first half and for the most part, it kept the Vikings in check. I didn't see the second half, but Cleveland St. ended up winning the game by hitting seven three pointers, or 21 of their 28 second half points to upset the Bulldogs. Nevertheless, I wanted to highlight Butler's packline defense in the first half, take a look,

5 in the Paint:

In your basic packline, all the help side defenders play ball-you-man within the 3-point perimeter like so,

When the ball gets into the lane either through penetration or through post-entry, all 5 players collapse into the paint. In this first sequence, it comes off of a hedge on the screen and roll,

In this second sequence, Cleveland St. is able to penetrate into the lane, all 5 players collapse into the paint, but the ball is kicked out to the perimeter. The result is a wide-open 3-pointer. That is what you give up when you go packline,

Finally, Cleveland St. is again able to penetrate but all 5 players collapse. With nowhere to go, the guard attempts a pass to one of his forwards, but because there are 5 defenders clustered in the paint, the ball is deflected and the result is a turnover,

With 5 in the paint, you also have a higher chance on short rebounds, but you will most likely give up long rebounds (which if the offense is attempting 3-pointers, are more prevalent).


I didn't watch the second half, but Cleveland St. started off the half hitting six straight 3-pointers. I think if it were me, I would have switched off the pack line, maybe with a pack-and-1 to take away the 3-point shooter. I'm not sure what coach Brad Stevens did, but obviously Cleveland St. was able to hit a number of 3-pointers to finish 10-for-19 overall and come away with the upset win.

For more info on defense against dribble penetration, take a look at Lon Kruger's DVD on Winning Every Possession with Defense. Coach Kruger is the head coach at UNLV. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.