Offensive Rebounding (And Prevention) Another Improvement Point For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Rebounding has always been a linchpin of the teams of West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins — at least, the successful ones. The groups that have been able to out-battle opponents for balls off the rim and backboard not only earn extra chances on the offensive end, but also set a tone for toughness and grit that can have additional benefits across the board(s).
Following the Mountaineers’ season opener, in which they were outboarded 50-46 by Western Kentucky, Huggins added hitting the glass to the many items on his team’s task list for improvement. The results were immediate, as WVU fashioned at least a plus seven rebounding margin in each of its next six games.
While that overall total has been good, there are still some chinks in West Virginia’s armor. The Mountaineers have gotten after their own misses well, racking up 52 offensive retrievals in their last three games, and moving their national ranking in that category to No. 15. However, they gave up a combined 29 offensive boards to Rider and Youngstown State — numbers that didn’t leave WVU’s 12th-year head coach in the best of moods, especially when he sees that his team is near the bottom of the NCAA in the number of offensive rebounds allowed to its opponents.
Some of this is the result of WVU’s continuing defensive struggles. Poor positioning on drives, coupled with a lack of fundmentals when shots go up, have contributed to the abundance of opponent’s second chances. And some, as Esa Ahmad noted after the Youngstown State game in which the Penguins grabbed 17 offensive boards, is just the bounce of the ball.
“We knew they shoot a lot of threes, so there were going to be long rebounds,” Ahmad said of WVU’s approach. “We did put a body on a man, but a lot of them went over our heads. I do think we did a better job in the second half.”
It’s true that there were a rather inordinate number of long rebound chances off YSU’s misses. Penguin guards grabbed five of those, and several went to areas where their players had a closer path to retrieval. West Virginia also improved marginally in the second half, allowing seven YSU retrievals on its offensive end as opposed to ten in the first half. None of those reasons fly with Huggins, though, and Ahmad knows it.
“We’re just trying to not let them get the ball,” he said, cutting the notion that trying to box out further from the basket, or changing anything once the shot goes up, holds the key to gathering more long caroms. “You do whatever you have to do so they won’t get it.”
For future games, that will need to include better board work from all guard not named Beetle Bolden, and more awareness of where a shot is going once it hits the rim. Winning some of those battles, and building a better rebounding team from top to bottom, is a must if WVU is to uphold its reputation as fierce battlers on the boards, as well as set the tone in the tougher games coming on the schedule.