The Maryland Terrapins use a variety of offensive sets in the course of a typical game. In this installment of our film reviews, let's break down one particular variation of the "Horns" framework.
We'll start by defining "Horns," a common set seen in both college and the NBA. Any play in "Horns" starts with both bigs at the elbows and the wings in the corners. This is just a starting point, which has countless options. The specific plays run out of "Horns" vary from team to team.
This is not the only set play that the Terps run out of "Horns." From my observations, I'd wager that the following play is Maryland's most frequently used option.
The play begins with a high post feed, and the point guard, usually Melo Trimble, cutting towards the strong side corner (same side as the entry pass). When Trimble converges with the wing, there are a variety of options.
Option #1: Trimble screens for the wing, followed by a dribble handoff. In the clip below, Michal Cekovsky executes the handoff with Jared Nickens. At the same time, there is a weak-side pin-down screen to free up the opposite wing.
Even without any lanes for penetration, the play flows nicely into a ball reversal and post-up for Diamond Stone, albeit an unsuccessful one.
Maryland could also run this same variation, but give Ceko the option to skip the first handoff. Once Nickens cuts away, Trimble could circle back to run the dribble handoff himself. At that point, Trimble would have a running start into a side pick-and-roll.
Having Trimble use the handoff seems ideal to me. We're very familiar with Trimble's ability to create from the high ball screen at the top of the arc. This would give the defense a different look, while accentuating those same strengths for Trimble.
Using a handoff on the side of the court makes a ton of sense, strategically. When an offense runs a dribble handoff, the defense has less time to position themselves. It's harder to hedge as the on-ball defender, since the big could potentially keep the ball and drive to the basket. And it's near impossible to use the "Ice" defense, where the off-ball defender denies the guard from using the screen.
Without a hedge or "Ice," the defense cannot force the offense towards the baseline. The offense completely dictates the action into the middle, opening up more potential scoring and passing lanes.
Option #2: Instead of setting a hard screen, Trimble has the option of "slipping" the screen into a backdoor cut. The wing still takes the dribble handoff if the backdoor isn't open. The play doesn't produce much in the clip below, but running the backdoor cut can keep the defense honest. Nickens knocks down a triple after Maryland resets into a high ball screen.
Option #3: When Trimble cuts to the corner, the wing can reject the screen and cut backdoor instead. This flows into a dribble handoff for Trimble. In the clip below, two defenders react to Rasheed Sulaimon on the backdoor cut. Left unguarded, Trimble cuts the play short by popping out for a wide open 3-pointer.
In both options #2 and #3, Maryland sets up the weakside action as a possibility, but they did not follow through. This could be by design, but I would like to see them run the pindown for the opposite wing no matter what. Instead, they relied on the strong side action to create an open score.
This might work against UMES, but the first option will not always be available against superior defenses. Versus Georgetown, Maryland ran the same exact play into a successful weakside action. As Jake Layman takes the dribble handoff, Damonte Dodd screens for Sulaimon on the opposite wing. This was a huge three-pointer going into halftime against the Hoyas.