It wasn’t Sammy who drew up the play, Coach

You ask me, Dave Leitao threw Sammy Zeglinski under the bus. When in reality somebody ought to be throwing him under the bus.
Everybody who knew what was going on was aware what Leitao was going to do, and that it was going to involve Zeglinski’s backcourtmate Sylven Landesberg.
Setting the scene – Auburn up 58-56, 14.7 seconds to go, Virginia ball, timeout UVa. The sublime Landesberg had been a force all afternoon long, going 5-of-8 from the floor and getting to the free-throw line 14 times.

It seemed simple – get the ball into Landesberg’s hands and let him create, either freeing himself up for a game-tying midrange jumper, getting to the rack and drawing a foul, or drawing so much attention from the Tigers that he would be able to dish to an open shooter spotting up from three for the win.

Except that Leitao didn’t draw that play up. Oh, he did get it into Landesberg’s hands.

“There were two options, one for Sylven to reject the ball screen and see how far he could take it. Then Sammy, if his feet were set and it was a quality shot, then he could shoot from two or three, if not drive it in and kick it,” Leitao explained his thinking.

The ball ended up in Landesberg’s hands on the right wing. The ball screen that Leitao drew up also drew a second defender to Landesberg as he made his way toward the right corner, clogging up that side of the court and forcing the freshman to dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, until option two could materialize in the form of Zeglinski. Who for some unknown reason was coming off a screen behind Landesberg on that same crowded side of the floor and had no option but to fire up a contested offbalance three that was not surprisingly blocked by DeWayne Reed with four seconds to go and rebounded by Auburn with 2.1 seconds to go, effectively ending things.

Or as Leitao saw it, Zeglinski “sprinted off and took the shot, and I think it was a little bit untimely because there was a man there. There wasn’t that much time left, either, so maybe he felt like he had to take it,” the coach said.

Um, hello – there wasn’t that much time left because you drew up a play for your best slasher and scorer that involved him getting a ball screen when he hadn’t needed ball screens all game long and had done just fine because nobody in eight games has been able to establish that he can be guarded effectively and consistently one-on-one. He’d gotten to the foul line 14 times, ferchrissake. He needs a ball screen all the sudden with 14.7 seconds to go – why, exactly?

Zeglinski was put in a hell of an awkward position sprinting toward Landesberg with a gaggle of Auburn defenders in the immediate area and the clock where it was when he got the ball. He was not going to be in any kind of set position upon getting the ball in his hands, there was no way he was going to find a lane to the basket with the poor spacing that had been created, and neither was there any chance that he was going to be able to dish the ball out of the mess considering the clock and that poor spacing.

Remember, Leitao had called timeout to set this all up. This wasn’t a free-for-all resulting from players getting out of position in an endgame scrum type situation. This is what they pay coaches the big bucks for.

Leitao screwed up. But it was Zeglinski’s fault.

Sorry, Coach. Gotta call BS on this one.

 

– Column by Chris Graham

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The book, with additional reporting by Scott Ratcliffe and Zach Pereles, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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