Oregon may have multiple personalities until Kenny Wooten returns from injury.
The Ducks are down to eight scholarship players, split evenly between guards and bigs as well as freshmen and veterans with Wooten out indefinitely due to a broken jaw and leading scorer and rebounder Bol Bol done as a Duck following foot surgery.
Oregon’s identity is admittedly unclear to the players and coach Dana Altman and it could vary depending on the opponent.
“There are a lot of different ways to play the game,” Altman said following Saturday’s 77-72 loss to Oregon State. “I think the guys can make adjustments. But whatever defense we are in, we have to communicate better. We were in our press and they broke it and we gave up an open shot because we did not put our half-court defense together. Every aspect of our game has to improve. I think we will change things up so guys have to make adjustments on the fly. We had a lot of different lineups with foul trouble.”
Oregon used its press for most of the night against OSU, which does not have a true point guard, and it was much more effective in the second half when the Ducks were making shots for more consistent opportunities to set up their defense.
“It seems like we had some success with it so missing Bol and Kenny, we are going to listen to however coach wants to play,” senior forward Paul White said. “The press seems to be what worked for us.”
Altman warned that pressing end to end is not always going to be an option with a short roster, particularly when the Ducks play two games in three days during conference play.
“I think in spots we can use it,” Altman said of the press. “It is going to be hard with our numbers to stay in that, but it is something we used and we can use.”
Oregon has started 6-foot-9 Paul White, Francis Okoro, and Louis King in both games since the injury to Wooten. The Ducks regularly ran a three-guard offense against the Beavers with some combination of Payton Pritchard, Will Richardson, Victor Bailey, and Ehab Amin on the court.
“We have to figure out what our identity is and that is where we rely on our coaches and teammates to figure that out and I think we will,” White said. “We will watch film and dissect things from this game. I feel like although this is a loss on our record, it is something we can build on and I look forward to that.”
Oregon trailed Oregon State by 18 points early in the second half, but rallied to take a lead in the final two minutes before the Beavers scored the final six points.
“There are no moral victories at Oregon, we would like to win and it does suck that we had to lose at the end,” White said. “It is a motivator and I think with the team we have, we have to figure things out. We have smart players, tough players, and now we have to figure things out as far as our identity.”
Oregon dropped its Pac-12 opener at home for the second year in a row and fell to 9-5, one game behind its pace at this time from last season which ended outside of the NCAA Tournament with a 10-8 record in conference and 23-13 overall. The Ducks stay home to face UCLA on Thursday and USC on Sunday after both of those opponents opened conference play at 2-0.
“We need to come to practice Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to get ready for UCLA which had two big wins this week,” Altman said.