Column: Jacob Boonyasith and the Eagles’ complicated relationship with threes

AU men's basketball is trying its best to avoid living and dying by the three

Column: Jacob Boonyasith and the Eagles’ complicated relationship with threes

Freshman guard Jacob Boonyasith during a Feb. 2, 2019 game against Holy Cross.

AU men’s basketball is last in the Patriot League in threes made and attempted per game (5.4 and 17.1, respectively). But the Eagles still need the shot – or the threat of the shot – to open up their offense. With guard Sam Iorio and his 2.5 threes per game sitting out, Holy Cross decided to overlook American’s range on Saturday. They also chose to overlook freshman guard Jacob Boonyasith. 

They probably shouldn’t have.

Boonyasith had an efficient 17 points, going 5-10 from deep and filling in when the Eagles needed him most. Head coach Mike Brennan stressed the importance of Boonyasith’s impressive performance in AU’s 66-49 win on Saturday.

“Well he can make shots, and he can extend the defense, especially against the zone where you need to make shots on the perimeter, he did that for us, and his defense is getting better,” Brennan said. “We’re gonna need him to continue to improve in both those ways for us.”

But the Eagles truly rely on off-ball movement to start their offense. They are often able to get off to hot starts because their energy and movement are the highest in the first half. This game was no different, to the tune of a 42-18 start.

With Beckton Jr. going backdoor, the defense became focused in on him, which created enough misdirection on the switch for Boonyasith to get open. It’s these little misdirections that are so key to the offense. When the team ran the same action early in the game, Gasperini found Nelson, who drew a foul cutting to the hoop.

The Eagles are ninth in the Patriot League in assists per game (13.1 per game). Yet, the offense continues to thrive. The team doesn’t need a ton of plays. Instead, it needs a ton of options.

Parallels can be found across not just teams, but sports. The Los Angeles Rams offense has been one of the most electric in NFL history this past season (even if their performance in the Super Bowl said otherwise). Their innovation differs from other teams. While other teams run out as many formations as possible, the Rams almost always run out of the same formation. They succeed because they have so many different plays and cuts they can run within that formation. 

Like the Rams, the Eagles’ success doesn’t run in their myriad of plays – instead, it’s the malleability of these plays that has sparked their four-game win streak. Their predictability is unpredictable.

The Eagles also prevent the three at the other end of the court. The team is first in the country in opponent threes made, allowing only 4.76 per game on 27.7% shooting (which puts them fifth in the country). Holy Cross went 2 for 15.

The cliche would be that the Eagles live and die by the three. It appears the Eagles are doing everything in their power to ensure they don’t die by it. 

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