Amid all the talk about Washington's improved defense is a large question of where it is coming from. Well, the answer is also large.
Seven-foot Aziz N'Diaye has proven to be a mobile defensive force which covers up multiple issues for Washington on defense. His presence not only blocks and changes shots, but it also changes approach.
N'Diaye defended 15 ball screens set by his man during the Colorado game. The Buffs scored once, and that came with 4:35 remaining in the game.
From the start, N'Diaye dominated defensively. Let's have a look:
> The first Colorado drive of the night is by Xavier Johnson and N'Diaye comes from the help side to spike his shot.
> Ball screen 1: Josh Scott, who N'Diaye defended most of the night, sets the screen and gets the ball back. N'Diaye never loses him and Scott bricks a challenged 13-footer.
> Ball screens 2 and 3: The next possession, N’Diaye is in another ball screen and switches onto Askia Booker all the way out at the 3point line. He stops Booker’s drive, then gets back to Scott.
N’Diaye stopping Booker forced him to give the ball up to Spencer Dinwiddie, who then calls Scott out for a pick, putting N’Diaye in his third ball-screen situation. Washington switches that, too, and N’Diaye tracks Dinwiddie all the way to the rim, forcing him to throw a pass that is deflected and leaves Colorado with two seconds on the shot clock.
For good measure, N’Diaye covers up Dinwiddie on the inbounds play which forces the pass to be thrown into the backcourt and produces a shot-clock violation.
Colorado’s next offensive trip, N’Diaye rotates to Xavier Johnson, who had spun away from Gaddy in the post, and plays him straight up, forcing a miss.
Next time down, Scott tries to post and bang N’Diaye, except he can’t move him off the spot. Scott’s jump hook is well off. Just 5:30 into the game, N’Diaye is responsible for six stops.
Ball screen 4: N’Diaye ended up in another ball screen a few minutes later and hedged, got back to his man, then rotated over to the driving Booker and swatted his shot. Booker becomes deterred from driving for the rest of the night.
Washington leads 11-4 when N'Diaye is subbed out. It was 13-12 when he returned.
Ball screen 5: N’Diaye shows and retreats, leaving Suggs in good position. But, Suggs falls down right by the rim. Immediately, N’Diaye pivots and swats what was a sure layup.
> Ball screen 6: Colorado comes up empty.
> Ball screen 7: N’Diaye covers up Booker again and Colorado turns it over.
At halftime, Colorado has run seven ball screens at N'Diaye. It scored zero times.
> Ball screen 8: Scott ends up with good position after N’Diaye shows and recovers, but he can’t score over the top of him.
> Balls screen 9: Booker decides to pull-up for a 3-pointer and misses. He won't drive at N'Diaye for the entire second half.
> Ball screen 10: Booker again pulls up when faced with N’Diaye. He misses the jumper.
> Ball screen 11: C.J. Wilcox helps out N’Diaye by shifting to rolling Scott. Again, Booker opts for a jump shot after having all sorts of problems in the first half driving toward N’Diaye. He misses.
> Ball screen 12: Scott does a nice job of slipping to the rim and Booker zips a pass to him. Scott lays it in for their first hoop on N’Diaye of the night. It comes with 4:35 remaining in the game.
> Ball screen 13: Now, it's Spencer Dinwiddie's turn. He tries to turn the corner, has nowhere to go and gives it up.
> Ball screen 14: Again Dinwiddie tries to turn the corner, has nowhere to go and has to give it up. In the same possession, N’Diaye ends up stopping Xavier Johnson before Colorado throws it away.
> Ball screen 15: Booker decides to go with a stepback instead of at N’Diaye. That allows Gaddy to recover and get a good challenge to the shot, which Booker misses.
Fifteen times Colorado tried to get N'Diaye on the move with ball screens. It scored once. Only one other time during the game did Colorado score against N'Diaye and that came when Johnson's hook went in after N'Diaye rotated to him to help. He played 30 minutes, committed zero defensive fouls and the Buffs scored four points against him.