Pitt - Great Zone Play Used To Beat Syracuse's 2-3 Zone

If you have a point guard who is a solid decision maker, this play can work at any level. I've seen it used by Pittsburgh against Syracuse's deadly 2-3 zone, and I've used it with 12 year olds as well.


Player 1 should be a good penetrator with the ability to hit the mid-range jump shot. Player 5 should be able to set a good screen. Player 4 should be able to score underneath the basket and Player 3 should be a good perimeter shooter.


  1. Player 2 will bring the ball up on the left side. (S)he makes the top guy of the zone commit to him/her.

  1. Once the defender commits, Player 2 passes to Player 1 who should've floated near the top of the key.

  2. As the pass is being thrown, Player 5 comes to set a screen on the outside guy on the top of the zone. That's why it is important for Player 1 to slide over to the top of the key to set up the defensive player.

  1. Player 1 will dribble off the screen. If nobody steps up to guard him, (s)he will shoot the 12-15 foot jump shot.

  2. Soon as Player 1 starts to dribble Player 4 will cut underneath the hoop to the ball side and Player 3 will float to the corner.

  3. Player 2 cuts to the weakside to keep the defensive Player #3 honest.

  1. If the outside person on the bottom of the zone takes away Player 1's shot and the middle person takes away the pass to Player 4. Player 3 will be wide open for an outside shot.

  1. If the defensive player covers the outside shot and the middle guy of the zone covers Player 1, Player 4 should be open underneath the hoop.

Related Pages and Helpful Resources

Double - Zone Offense Play For 2-3 Zones, 3-2 Zones, and 1-3-1 Zones
Basketball Plays and The Art of Running Set Plays and Scoring More Points
Dynamic Zone Offense Plays Against Any Zone Defense
Zone Out of Bounds (Inbounds) Plays

Recommended Products:

Beating the Zone - 75 Set Plays to Score Against Zone Defense
In this eBook, you will find 75 zone plays that you can use against any zone defense. It includes 2-3 zone plays, 3-2 zone plays, 1-3-1 zone plays, baseline out of bounds plays, and multi-purpose zone plays. You will also learn how to exploit the weaknesses of zone defenses, learn new ideas for running zone plays, and much more ... (more info)

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...

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Coach Boggs says:
6/28/2007 at 9:56:19 AM

I coach middle school. In middle school, I can also see player 2 becoming another option, because the younger kids tend to collapse to the ball when the zone is penetrated.


hanna says:
6/29/2007 at 11:32:43 AM

well i think it a very good play it has some deversion for the deffenders on the weak side but i think the point guard if he shots after the pick it will be a very quick offense it will only take maybe 10 secondes to do all the play from base line to the other side of the court including the shot so i could suggest some passes and moving then to do the play like the players will start at their original positions them to switch them for the play in that way you set your players and them you atack any way it s just an opinion and thanks for the great drills guys wich you the best


Joe says:
7/2/2007 at 7:57:23 AM

I like the looks of this one! Some good options that will pull defenders and allow for open shots. I agree with Hanna about the first option to shoot by the #1 player.


spyda says:
7/7/2007 at 6:03:59 PM

yo wuz up spyda here thats a pretty sweet play u got goin on there keep it up. spyda


William L. Hopkins III says:
7/21/2007 at 12:21:44 PM

I like the movement of all players. But I have one concern on the spacing left by player 5 who after the screen is left to close to player 1. Maybe player 5 step back to the top of the key for a possible return pass for a shot and for defensive balance. Or, have player 5 roll to the basket opposite and have player 2 step to the top of the key for defensive balance or the return pass. Just a thought. My question would be, how do roll the offense into continuity on the other side when all the option is exhausted.


Joe says:
7/24/2007 at 2:30:13 PM

Hi William,

It all depends what offense you're running. You may not be able to continue into your offense. You may need the point guard to pull the ball back out and completely reset the offense before continuing. The point guard should be in charge of getting everybody where they need to be before running with the offense again.


Comment says:
10/28/2007 at 3:38:44 AM

Otherwise nice play, but opposing player 1 and 2 will get a very easy fastbreak basket after they rebound or especially if you create a turnover.


DJ says:
11/21/2007 at 6:00:18 PM

wuz up in the home spyda DJ here


Pitt Student says:
11/30/2007 at 3:10:31 AM

Don't dispute a Jamie Dixon play. It is appropriate at all levels. GO PITT!!! DEjuan Blair is a stud!!


Stephen says:
12/23/2007 at 1:44:24 AM

Well, I see problems with this play. In all honesty, 5 should roll to the basket after he picks and 2 should pop out for a saftey valve. Other than that, when run correctly, and the defense stays true to their zone, perfect.


russell says:
4/6/2008 at 9:11:18 PM

i coach high school team and a 16u aau team.
i need to know how to rotate the play to the other side to keep the the play rotating. i love the play set against a 2-3 i have great man plays this is just the pla i needed thanks.


Joe Haefner (Co-Founder of Breakthrough Basketball) says:
4/7/2008 at 7:44:12 AM

Hi Russell,

This isn't a continuity offense. It's just a play. If none of the options above open up a scoring opportunity, pull the ball out and set up another play or offense.


kenkaid says:
5/13/2008 at 9:27:09 AM

How about a zone play for the 1-3-1 defense


ROBERT says:
10/19/2008 at 1:25:50 PM



Ariel Rabe says:
11/16/2008 at 9:53:31 PM

The offensive play can easily be double-teamed. Fleet-footed road-runner (depending on the need and purpose, below or higher than 6 footer) can run and move around with the sole purpose of finding the ball. And his team-mates on defense can just close (with feet wide, arms moving) the either side of the lane or wherever the strong side is. Skip passes are not worth the risk for we are all well aware that the defensive players on the weak-side are all eyes for such a pass. However, for the team on offense, an alley-a hoop pass at the weak side is a good option, but not the best. A simple side-jumper (below the right or left elbow) off a screen is the better option.


Coach Speedy says:
1/12/2009 at 7:09:40 PM

I like this play; But I agree with Stephen with 5 rollin to da goal & 2 movin to da top for safety or 3 pointer


Mike L says:
2/23/2009 at 8:18:09 PM

Great idea! We used a similar ball screen against 2-3 zones and it works with grade six girls.


Coach Cobra says:
3/24/2009 at 5:31:42 PM

What if they don't play zone stupid!


Al'x says:
11/6/2009 at 12:40:49 AM

^^ That's why this site also includes plays to attack the man-to-man defense. Wouldn't hurt to do a little browsing, stupid Coach Cobra


red auerbach says:
12/8/2009 at 11:49:15 PM

i used to run the same play back in the day with bill russel. it worked great. now i got 9 rings.


YunquE says:
12/16/2009 at 8:26:24 AM

i love this play^^


biller says:
1/20/2010 at 9:25:38 AM

To those who advocate 5 rolling after the screen. The way the play is outlined is probably the most effective because 4 is behind the zone and can slip into the hole created by 1 forcing the action. If 2 doesn't drift down then weakside defender will slide across and pick up 4. What is wrong with 5 stepping out as deep safety at half and 1 going the foul line for short rebounds. With shot clock you do not have time to run contuity.


lover10 says:
1/31/2010 at 7:14:47 PM

this play rocks


shewa says:
3/10/2010 at 3:08:23 AM

i like this play it easy to learn....i can''''''''t wait to teach this to my team mates.


Rich says:
4/14/2010 at 4:52:14 PM

My middle school kids use a 5-out offense against zones, and we run a backside screen action almost identical to this play. It pretty much always results in a good open shot, they don't always go in, but if you run a 5-out offense and need an open shot, this play will get you one. If you run it a few times the low defenders will begin to cheat and you will open up chances near the basket or they will have to get out of zone. good shooting!


Kareem Moore says:
1/5/2011 at 1:22:29 PM

I can work this offensive set. I can do a lot of things out of this. So thanks for this.


eric says:
3/27/2011 at 6:03:57 PM

This is a good play, but I saw in diagram number 8 that defensive player number 1 was just standing there with no one to guard. that means he could easily double team any one, right?


12/5/2011 at 8:56:43 PM

Hey! Great play!


Ken Sartini says:
12/6/2011 at 7:15:10 AM

Hey Guys,

There is something for everyone on this site.... how to attack m2m and zone defenses.

One thing about sets/plays, you can always adjust them to fit your needs - either by changing who plays where or how you set it up.

I had a College coach from Chicago tell me once, attacking zones isn't rocket science, "put em where they aint!" You can attack seams to force two players to cover you or at least get them to come at you.. you can set ball screens or back screens. You can over load a side or try to distort the zone... this play seems to do a lot of those options. Running a player BEHIND a zone can get you a lot of good looks since the D can lose site of them. Just remind your players to get into passing lanes.

Great play guys.


Coach Mac says:
6/28/2012 at 11:17:01 AM

Variation: 2 does not have to cut to the goal. After 5 sets the screen for 1, 5 then sets a screen on the Number 1 defender for 2 who comes around to the top of the key for the open 3. Then 5 rolls to the goal or pops out to the left side. If 2 is not open after receiving the ball, the play is reset from there.


Jon R says:
2/17/2014 at 9:07:16 AM

I agree with Stephen on this one. By having the 2 cut you dont gain much and you give up break away layups should your 1 make a bad decision. Having the 2 instead fill in at the top of the key after the 1 attacks off the screen gives you a man back to protect from a run out. Also having the 5 pick and (delay) roll gives your 1 a shooter in the corner a 4 in the short corner and a roller going to the basket. As someone who played the 1 in college i can say that would be a fun situation.


LB says:
3/29/2014 at 3:59:47 PM

Great play! If run correctly, it gives the 1 plenty of options. I coach 8th grade girls AAU and use it out of time outs and the only time the play is not successful is when we miss the OPEN shot we always have available to us. We have won quite a few games in the final seconds with this play. If your players have confidence in the play, the play will work.


Ken Sartini says:
3/30/2014 at 9:23:33 AM

LB -

We all look like a genius when the ball goes in the hoop. When the kids miss, people in the stands are asking, why the heck would he do that?

I agree though.... but its all about exectution, IF your kids run the play right ( and you have another option for it ) you should get a great shot.


wvery19 says:
4/15/2014 at 12:08:45 PM

I agree with Hanna that it is a little quick but I would suggest a team with small quick guards, a good shooting small forward who can get off his feet, and two back to the basket post (or power forward and center what ever you want to call them)who can set a good wide screen and immediately roll and score.


Mvsz74 says:
7/26/2014 at 8:27:22 AM

Great play


Mvsz74 says:
7/26/2014 at 8:28:46 AM

Great play


Coach B says:
10/22/2014 at 8:08:01 PM

I've run this play against 2-3 zone on all levels and it works. The 1 guard gets many good looks and the corner shot will open up more after the pg scores off the high screen.

We initiate the play with the pg throwing to the wing and the wing returning the pass to the pg-- it usually gets the top zone to move enough for an easier back screen.

This is not my primary offense vs the 2-3 zone. I usually wait until the game has begun to settle a bit or we need to change looks. The high back screen is more effective when defenders are getting tired.


LB says:
1/17/2015 at 12:48:00 PM

I have run this play in AAU with 8th grade girls and other coaches had no way to stop it. When you have two kids on the floor who can shoot the ball, the play is difficult to stop. Once the defense started anticipating the passes, the middle of the defense opened up for lay-ups. If you run the play correctly, there will always be an open shot. When you can run it on both sides of the floor, it is impossible to stop.


Lamont Weldon says:
2/6/2015 at 8:48:29 AM

I love this play! I run this play with 11-14 girls and it works great. There is actually 4 options on this play: 1) the dribbler can take it to the rack if its open, 2) the 3 on the wing if that's open, 3) the 4 if the center steps up to take away the drive, and 4) the 2 that's cutting through from the back side. The only problem that is presented with the play is the opportunity for a 2 on 1 fast break if the rebound is not secured by your team if the shot is missed.


Jeff says:
11/9/2015 at 10:51:20 AM

I really think you could make this a continuity play. If #2 would pop to the top instead of drive and #5 would pick and roll toward the opposite block then #1 could drive and then kick back out to #2 if nothing else was open and then #5 could pop back up and screen for #2 and he would drive on the opposite side.


Brandon says:
10/26/2016 at 4:58:33 PM

we are naming this play Blazer and Napoleon


Ed says:
2/22/2017 at 6:44:37 PM

I am a middle school girls coach. I like the play. However in middle school 5/6 level girls cannot play back court D so usually I find myself struggling because the 1,2 Defenders play at the half court line and the point guard struggles just trying to get the ball across half court. I am willing to give this a try, however the pick from the offensive 5 may need to com up higher then the foul line, so hope it doesn't collapse quickly


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