It was a great shot because the game was at stake, time was limited, his team was trailing and even the greatest of all 3-point shooters doesn’t even convert on half of his attempts. It was an easy shot because it was wide open.
Well, it was easier than it should have been, anyway.
Duke freshman Cam Reddish’s game-winning 3-pointer with .8 seconds left delivered an 80-78 victory over Florida State on Saturday, keeping the Blue Devils atop the polls and undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He hit the shot after teammate R.J. Barrett had converted the first of two free throws with 5 seconds left to make it a one-point deficit, then missed the second but watched as FSU tried unsuccessfully to control the rebound and keep it in play.
The ball initially was awarded to FSU, but a replay review showed the ball never touched Duke forward Jack White. So the Devils were awarded the ball and tasked with inbounding from the baseline. They had plenty of time to design a play, and the Seminoles had plenty of time to design a defense against it. They aligned in a man-to-man, but someone forgot about one man.
Reddish at the buzzer. What a play drawn up by Coach K. Duke still #1 come Monday morning. pic.twitter.com/9E11ESfrro
— Vasu Kulkarni (@Vasu) January 12, 2019
FSU’s first line of defense was 7-4 center Christ Koumadje, who was put along the baseline to harass inbound passer Tre Jones. This maneuver was logical, putting a long defender in position to take away options from the passer, primarily a lob toward the center of the lane.
Guard Trent Forrest was in the center of the lane, with one eye on Jones and another over his left shoulder, trying to remain aware of potential screeners. Guard Terance Mann lined up closest to Reddish, who was stationed on the left elbow, just inside the 3-point line.
When White crossed from the right side of the lane to approach Mann, however, Mann became occupied with his activity. Forrest saw Duke center Marques Bolden coming from a similar direction and moved closer to the goal, trying to keep his body between Bolden and the rim. Barrett faked toward the lane, then cut to the right corner and drew M.J. Walker away from the action. Big Mfiondu Kabengele initially considered chasing Barrett, then settled for staying inside and keeping the lane clogged.
Reddish was all alone, took his time and made the shot comfortably.
“For our guys, it’s our 15th game, a number of those guys have never been in an experience like this,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters. “With this atmosphere against that level of talent and expertise and to come up — it wasn’t that he just hit that shot, but he hit a couple other big ones.”
No one from FSU admitted what broke down.
“I didn’t expect them to get the ball at the elbow,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton told reporters afterward. “I thought we had that covered.
“I expected them to get the ball inbounds but not a direct pass out of bounds to a guy at the elbow. They did a very good job of creating some misdirection. I’ve got to go back and look at the film and see how he delivered that pass right on the money with a 7-4 guy right on top of him. I thought that would be enough for them to at least have to go in another direction with that short amount of time on the clock. Great execution by them and great finish by a very good player.”
In fact, the absence of a defender in Reddish’s vicinity made the pass easy for Jones. If someone had chased Reddish to the left wing, it might have been a difficult play to complete.
Forrest told Seminoles.com, “It was kind of like a misdirection. We were doing our jobs, but somehow we just lost Cam Reddish.”
If everyone was doing their jobs, though, Reddish wouldn’t have been misplaced. It appears Mann was guilty because he was closest to Reddish at the start of the play. He wasn’t screened away from the assignment. He chose another. He might have expected Forrest to switch, but Forrest obviously never gave a thought to Reddish because he believed the greater threat was Bolden. At no point did any defender even attempt a desperate close-out to bother Reddish. It was as open a shot as a player might expect to try in pre-game warmups.
“I learned that we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to be a little more consistent,” Hamilton said.
“You don’t have very many opportunities to make mistakes against a team as talented as Duke.”