Thursday, December 02, 1999

Bearcats not No. 1 on boards

Huggins: 'We have to work on it'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge, who plays them soon, calls the UC Bearcats the best team in college basketball. Iowa State's Larry Eustachy, who just got done with the Bearcats, says the same.

        Bob Huggins, who deals with the UC players every day, would like for them to collect as many rebounds as compliments. “We have to work at it and get better,” he said.

        For all the advancements the No. 1-ranked Bearcats (4-0) made in winning the Big Island Invitational over the weekend, they left themselves well short of perfection by struggling to rebound against teams with less size and athletic ability.

        For the games against Cleveland State, Santa Clara and Iowa State, UC's rebounding margin was only plus-1.3 per game. The Bearcats have ranked in the NCAA's top 20 in that category the past six years with no average lower than plus-6.4.

        One of Huggins' main tenets as coach is for players to “get opposite” when a shot is launched — meaning players should establish rebounding position on the far side of the rim, where statistics indicate the majority of rebounds are taken.

        “We just take ourselves out of position ... and we've been

        getting a lot of bad bounces off the rim,” center Kenyon Martin said. “But we've got to figure out where the ball is going and get there.

        “At the defensive end, I don't know what it is, because they got a few offensive rebounds they shouldn't have gotten. We'll have to look at tape, figure out what we're doing wrong and fix it.”

        Although the Bearcats' total rebounds and margin are down, they're getting more rebounds from their guards — nearly three more per game than last season.

        So a lot of what's being missed is in the front court. UC also has not gotten all the rebounds it was hoping to gain from its power forwards.

        Although seniors Jermaine Tate and Ryan Fletcher held Iowa State star Marcus Fizer to four rebounds — and that was a big part of their job — together they grabbed only three in 48 minutes, all by Fletcher.

        Tate had been a voracious rebounder in UC's two exhibitions but lately is concentrating more on trying to make an impact on the offense. He'd never been shut out in the rebounding column in 73 college games. Huggins thought Tate made more of an effort inside against Iowa State than in some previous games, though, notably the Cleveland State game in which he grabbed three in 21 minutes.

        Fletcher (4.8 per game) has been a more productive rebounder than Tate (3.8), although Fletcher has played fewer minutes.

        “It's just something we've got to work on,” Fletcher said. “I don't know if we're not getting opposite, or what it is. Rebounding is desire.

        “And it's not like we're missing a lot of shots. We're really shooting the ball well right now. To rebound, you've got to have the opportunity to rebound. I'm not saying it's not there, but it's not there as much as it has been in the past.”

        There were previous years in which opposing coaches would say UC's best offensive maneuver was a missed shot, which the Bearcats then could rebound and drop in the goal from close range.

        Fletcher's argument deflates, though, when it's considered that last year's Bearcats missed 1,030 shots through the course of the season and got back 421, which means they grabbed 41 percent of the rebounds they created.

        This year's Bearcats have missed 102 shots and rebounded 37 — or 36 percent. That's a significant decrease.

        “We're not getting to where we've got to be,” Huggins said. “Part of it is because we're standing watching the ball. All of it is because we're standing watching the ball.”


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