The Oregon Women’s basketball team is going through a stretch that we as fans have not seen from them in some time. With a record of 3-4 over their last seven conference games, the Lady Ducks already now have more conference losses this season than in each of the past three seasons.
Right now, the Ducks seem to lack an identity of how they want to play. Historically, Kelly Graves’ teams predominantly run most of their offense through pick and rolls. His teams have always had great success with this for two main reasons. He has had multiple guards that are able to penetrate off the on-ball screen, and also good spacing with generally three to four shooters on the floor.
This team however, is built a little bit differently. This team has quite a bit more size underneath with Sedona Prince, Nyara Sabally, Angela Dugalic and Lydia Giomi. All players who bring good things to the table, and have earned minutes, but when there are two posts in the game at the same time, the floor and offense get clogged up. The Ducks are unable to find spacing to drive and penetrate to the hoop.
Secondly, right now the Ducks lack the guards and wings that are able to make plays off the dribble. Primary ball handler Te-Hina Paopao, has shown flashes of being able to create shots for herself and her teammates, but other than her, the Ducks struggle. It’s not that players like Erin Boley, Taylor Mikesell, Jaz Shelley, and Taylor Chavez aren’t good players, their strength just isn’t off the dribble. Their skills are tailored toward making plays off the ball, either shooting or through movement.
Now, this doesn’t mean the team can’t be successful, I mean all four of their losses this season are to top ten teams. But in order for this group to get over the hump against the top teams, they may have to learn to play a different way, or adjust their lineup to help space the floor.
The first option is to begin to play more inside out, and run their offense through the likes of Prince and Sabally. Cater the offense to get the ball to the post every possession, and let them either attempt to score, or kick out to a shooter if the defense sags down to help. With their height and skill, those players have the ability to be greatly successful, and will play to the strengths of the lineups currently being deployed.
The second option is for Graves to adjust his rotations to only have one true post player on the floor at a time, with four guards/wings. This primarily would benefit a player like Boley, who has struggled this season with more of a ball handling role, as it would put her back in a position to be a catch-and-shoot three point shooter. This would allow the Ducks to better space the floor for more player and ball movement.
With the makeup of this team, I believe the best route to take would be to make a concerted effort to play inside out through the post players. Right now, they are the strength of this team. With Paopao being the only semi consistent penetrator, and a group of really good catch-and-shoot players, this would benefit this team the most.
As I have said many times, this team has the talent to compete with anyone in the country on any given night. But they are young and inexperienced this season. They are going to need to use their remaining games to figure out who they are and how they want to play to best utilize that talent. If they can accomplish that, they are more than capable of making a deep run come March.
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Top Photo By Gary Breedlove
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