The 1-2 Bucs have outrebounded their opponents by double digits each time out. Among teams to have played three games, they’re tied for the national lead in rebound margin, averaging 20.7 more rebounds than their opponents.
“I’m not sure we’ll be able to keep that number up, but we have some guys who have a nose for the ball,” said Bucs coach Steve Forbes, whose team plays at Winthrop on Saturday.
Arizona State, Bowling Green and San Francisco were also plus-20.7 in rebounding margin after three games.
“I’m not sure it’s something you can always teach,” Forbes said. “It’s just a knack you have. It’s something we’ve always emphasized, that defensive rebounding wins championships.”
It’s true they fattened up their statistics in a 109-44 victory over Hiwassee, but the Bucs have also performed well on the glass in their two losses, to mid-major power Georgia State and Big East member Creighton. They outrebounded Georgia State 49-39 and Creighton 40-22.
Against Georgia State, 27 of the rebounds were on the offensive end in a game where the Bucs shot 35 percent from the field and missed 19 of 23 shots from 3-point range.
“Twenty-seven offensive rebounds, that sounds like a lot, but that’s a lot of misses,” Forbes said. “That’s our shots being missed and us going to rebound them.”
Getting offensive rebounds is one thing. Doing something positive with them is another, and Forbes wants to see some improvement in that area.
“We haven’t always turned them into scores,” Forbes said. “Sometimes you get an offensive rebound in a tight space and it’s not a great time to take it right back up. Sometimes they need to pass it out.”
ETSU forward Jeromy Rodriguez leads the Southern Conference, averaging 12.7 rebounds a game. Mladen Armus, whose 21 rebounds in the team’s exhibition game don’t count in his average, is still getting 8.7 per game, fifth in the league.
The Bucs are also counting on small forward Bo Hodges and guard Isaiah Tisdale to hit the boards.
“Those guys have a knack and a desire,” Forbes said. “You have to have a desire to go get it. It’s something we’ve always emphasized, but to have guys who do it is even better.”
While the rebounding numbers stand out, Forbes is just as pleased with the team’s overall defense. The Bucs are holding opponents to 40.1 percent shooting from the field.
“If we can defend like that and rebound, you have a good chance to win,” Forbes said.
The Bucs’ two losses were each by six points and they held the lead late in each one before faltering down the stretch.
“We’ve had a chance to win both games, we just haven’t finished it,” Forbes said. “Against Georgia State, it was offensive execution. Creighton, we just did not get enough stops. We had legitimate chance to win both of those games.”