The press defense is a typically a study in tradeoffs. You play aggressive defense, which hopefully leads to more turnovers and typically leads to more fouls. You hope that the empty possessions and the missed free throws make up for the extra attempts your opponent gets.
Well, on Thursday at South Florida that tradeoff didn't work very well for DePaul. South Florida turned the ball over 13 times in 63 possessions (20.6%), but the Bulls also went to the free throw line 21 times and made 17. The ten point difference at the free throw line ended up being essentially the margin of the game as well, 71-60 was the final score.
What's very odd though about this game is that it was South Florida's guards that controlled the game. Often DePaul has been dominated by big men inside. Maybe there's one quick wing the team has trouble controlling - like Jeremy Hazell or Kemba Walker - but its typically the front line's play that dictates the outcome.
Well, Krys Faber couldn't have played much better on Thursday. He was 7-8 from the field, grabbed six boards and scored a career-high 16 points, with only three fouls and three turnovers. It was the game many people have been waiting for from him this season. DePaul's two starting big men, Faber and Cleveland Melvin combined for 33 points, while South Florida's four man rotation combined for 32. It was a virtual stalemate, yet the Blue Demons lost.
It just goes to show you how many things have to go right for a team like DePaul, with the talent it currently has on hand, to beat even a team like South Florida, which was 15th in the Big East standings with just one win coming into the game. And so, as Brandon Young struggled, with four turnovers and 4-11 shooting the Blue Demons watched their chance slip away.
You gamble and you lose sometimes. That where those seven fast break dunks came from. From what I watched it seemed like DePaul was being aggressive because they knew that was the only way they were going to go into Tampa and get a win. A win they desperately need.
The chances for that elusive win are getting fewer in number. It would take an upset of monumental proportions for the Blue Demons to get a win in the Big East before they see South Florida against on February 26 at Allstate Arena. That game and the next one at home against Rutgers are the only two preventing the Blue Demons from having a winless regular season. Ken Pomeroy now puts the odds of it happening at 28.1%.
Note because I was curious: The correlation between DePaul's foul rate and turnover rate on defense this season is -.31. That means the two variables have an inverse relationship (which you'd expect) and that you can almost just look at those two statistics and know how well the press worked you want to see high turnover percentages and low foul percentages. In Big East play that relationship jumps to -.67, which is very strong. Also, you can often tell just how well the defense played on a night by looking at the turnover percentage, it has a -.88 correlation on the season and -.89 correlation in Big East play with defensive efficiency.
On the season the negative correlation between turnover percentage and defensive efficiency is greater than the positive correlation between effective field goal percentage and defensive efficiency. That's a pretty rare thing and underscores how turnovers are the key to DePaul's defense right now.