SAN JOSE, Calif. — Seeking as much information on Oregon as he could find, Greg Gard turned on the tape of Wisconsin’s 72-65 win over the Ducks in the second round of 2015 NCAA Tournament.
“I could pull nothing from it,” said Gard, the fourth-year Wisconsin coach who spent the previous 14 seasons as an assistant with the Badgers under Bo Ryan. “They’re different and we’re totally different.”
Gard noted that Wisconsin had two NBA first-round picks — Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky — that season while this year’s group is younger and without any certain NBA players. Yet the Badgers' brand of slowing the pace with a disciplined defense has endured since Dick Bennett arrived in the mid-1990s.
“They are not going to change the way they play,” Oregon coach Dana Altman noted. “We’ve altered our approach this year because we had to.”
The 12th-seeded Ducks (23-12) have slowed their pace to the point where oddsmakers set the lowest over/under in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at around 117 points when Oregon faces the fifth-seeded Badgers (23-10) at 1:30 p.m. Friday at SAP Center.
“Both teams kind of grind it out,” Altman said. “We’re taking longer on possessions this year than we ever have. I think everyone is predicting it to be a low-scoring game because of two styles that have kind of led everyone to believe that.”
Oregon is scoring 70.5 points per game, which is its fewest since Altman’s first season in 2011. The coach noted that his team was averaging 76.8 points during the nine games before Bol Bol suffered a season-ending foot injury that took 21 points out of Oregon’s lineup.
“We’re not doing it on purpose,” Altman said. “It’s just something that’s kind of worked out that way because we haven’t been able to generate any good looks early. We don’t have a team that has great driving ability and we don’t have a true post-up guy we can throw it into right away. So some of our offensive possessions we have to manufacture some shots and because of that it takes a little longer at times, but it wasn’t anything that we necessarily planned.”
It’s also not a style that Oregon plans to stick with for 40 minutes.
“We mix up the flows,” junior point guard Payton Pritchard said. “I like to get out and run so I’m going to push it. But during the game, the style changes depending on how things are going. If we are flowing, then we are going to push it. If we’ve missed a couple shots and turned the ball over a couple times, then we need a good possession. We don’t really look at it like we play a slow pace because I don’t think we do.”
The Ducks have won eight straight games while allowing an average of 54.3 points per game while Wisconsin ranks ninth in the country in scoring defense at 61.4.
“It puts an emphasis on every possession because you have to maximize your opportunities each time,” Gard said. “I know pace of play, it’s made of that, but it’s more how efficient you are and they have obviously found their identity and what makes them good. They’ve done some good things defensively here in the last four weeks.”
Wisconsin All-American senior Ethan Happ is shooting 53.1 percent from the field for 17.5 points per game, but also leads the Badgers with 153 assists as D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Nate Reuvers and Brevin Pritzl are all shooting at least 36 percent on 3-pointers.
“Happ is very good with the kickout, very good at spotting double-teams,” Oregon senior forward Paul White said. “We can’t allow him to get where he wants to on the floor easily. Make sure that we don’t have any mistakes in terms of sagging off too much where he finds an open 3-point shooter.”