SAN JOSE, Calif. — A quick glance at the stats, and OSU fans may be urging Travis Ford to unleash his press defense on turnover-prone Oregon.
The Ducks give it away 14.9 times per game, easily the most in the Pac-12. And they've been even sloppier in their eight losses, fumbling the ball away 16.5 times per contest, including binges of 22, 20, 20 and 19 in four separate defeats.
So quick logic might tell you: Go to the press early. Don't go away from it. Because Oregon theoretically should have trouble handling it.
But it's more complicated than that, because the Ducks' turnover problems are a bit more complicated than that.
“They actually handle the press pretty well,” Ford said. “Their point guards are very quick and we've seen teams try to press them and not have a whole lot of success.”
What ails the Ducks more is sloppy ball security in the half court. And everyone has played a culpable role.
Nine Ducks average at least one turnover. Three Ducks average at least two.
“It's been an equal opportunity for us,” Oregon coach Dana Altman joked. “Our post men turn it over, everybody turns it over.”
Ford and the Cowboys still plan to utilize their unique 1-3-1 press trap. It's been a game-changer in isolated spurts this season. But they don't plan to overuse, for fear of speeding up a quick team that thrives in transition.
Instead, expect OSU to flash a variety of defensive looks at the Ducks, sometimes switching on a whim, even mid-possession, in hopes of confusing and controlling the Ducks.
That's been the Cowboys' strategy all year. And it's worked, with OSU giving up only 62.8 points per game on 39 percent shooting.
“That's been our big thing,” Marcus Smart said. “We're going to make sure you don't score on us and we're going to try to shut you down on offense.”
In particular, look for OSU to fall back into their 2-3 zone more than usual. The Cowboys like to utilize it against teams that struggle to shoot the three, and Oregon falls into that category.
The Ducks shoot 32.3 percent from deep, 11th in their 12-team league. And in two losses to California this season (a team that many were comparing stylistically to OSU on Wednesday), they went a combined 4-of-27 from behind the arc.
So there are obvious areas to exploit, and Oklahoma State has the personnel and schemes to do so.
“We like to keep the other team on their toes a little bit,” said OSU center Michael Cobbins. “We'll show the press a little bit, back it off, throw some other looks.”