On Wednesday night Providence hosted #24 Marquette in a double-overtime thriller that set Friartown abuzz with talks of their newest star player. Bryce Hopkins, the Sophomore transfer from Kentucky, recorded 29 points & 23 rebounds to lead Providence to their most important win of the young season. Let's take a closer look at how Coach Cooley and Hopkins attacked Marquette's defense and how he managed such success.
Terminology- This article mentions several plays in which Providence gets Bryce Hopkins the ball in isolation. Isolation refers to allowing a player to attack his defender 1-on-1 while his teammates space the floor. There are other terms for this play, but we will stick with isolation.
Now let's take a look at Providence vs Marquette
This is the second possession of the game and Coach Cooley quickly goes to Hopkins in isolation. Hopkins' primary defender for the game is Olivier-Maxence Prosper, a 6'8 Junior who plays primarily as a wing. Prosper forces a tough shot but Hopkins is able to collect his own rebound and draw the shooting foul. These are the first of Hopkins 8 offensive rebounds and 18 free throw attempts.
Now about five minutes later and this is a late shotclock situation for Providence. Hopkins attacks Prosper and Croswell seals his defender giving Hopkins a clear lane to the basket. This is a 6'7 Forward blowing-by an elite wing defender.
The beginning of this sequence is a set-play to get Hopkins the ball in the post. Marquette's smaller defenders are not able to defend Hopkins' physicality without fouling. Then on the second free throw attempt Hopkins manages to out-rebound the entire Marquette team twice to record the putback layup. Tremendous strength from Hopkins.
Second half now and again another set-play for Hopkins in isolation. Hopkins again gets Prosper with his first step and from there is able to use his strength to get to the paint and draw the foul. Hopkins' first step and spin-move are remarkably quick for a player of his size.
Now in overtime and Coach Cooley runs a play for Hopkins to get the ball in the post. Prosper is a step late due to a good screen from Bynum and Hopkins wastes no time getting towards the basket.
Lastly in double overtime Hopkins shows the full range of his skill. Marquette's guard beats Croswell badly but Hopkins is in position to slide over and protect the rim. Hopkins gets the rebound and starts the fast break, he then runs the floor hard forcing Marquette to foul. Impressive stuff from a big-man.
Bryce Hopkins is going to haunt Big East coaches, in part, because of the tremendous versatility he brings on offense. Hopkins pairs the strength and physicality of a forward with the athleticism and ball-handling skills of a wing to create a mismatch on almost every defender. When smaller defenders are asked to match Hopkins' strength in the post, they have to resort to fouling. Hopkins has already recorded three games with 10+ free throw attempts.
When Hopkins was recruited out of high school, scouts noted his ability to play 3 different positions due to his ability to play at all 3-levels. Big East teams will need to find a defender to match that skillset or they will be on the wrong end of another 20 & 20 game.