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Hoyas come up shy in board battles
Rebounding is one of the aspects of basketball that can be difficult to teach, given the unpredictable nature of where the ball will bounce, combined with the complex chemistry of positioning, strength, agility and desire needed to corral it, all the while fending off an opposing player hoping to do the exact same thing.
Over the years, rebounding has been a key element of Georgetown's success, given its long history of big men willing to pound the paint.
This year, however, has been a different story. Heading into Saturday's conference opener at Marquette, rebounding has been one of the warts hidden under the surface of the Hoyas' 10-1 record and No. 15 ranking.
Yes, Georgetown is outrebounding its opponents, but no one in the program is satisfied with the results thus far.
"We have to rebound better — that's what it comes down to," junior forward Nate Lubick said. "You can talk about boxing out and all that stuff, but it's just about going after that ball — going and getting that ball."
The Hoyas are averaging 33.8 rebounds per game, which is 236th in the country. To put that in perspective, Missouri leads the nation at 47.4 boards per game and Maryland is eighth in the country at 43.0 rebounds per contest.
Georgetown has struggled even more on the offensive glass, tied for 301st in the nation with 9.0 offensive boards.
So what gives?
With a roster full of long, lanky players, the Hoyas would seem to be adept at pulling down rebounds. But apart from Otto Porter (7.7 rpg) and Greg Whittington (7.4 rpg), Georgetown has been soft on the glass.
"We definitely have to make a conscious effort to go after the ball," coach John Thompson III said. "I think as much offensive rebounding as defensive rebounding. We've got to get in there and get second and third shots.
"And at the other end of the court, our guys like [guard] Markel [Starks] need to join the party and start running down some of those long ones instead of just depending on our interior people to get the rebound."
The Hoyas' rebound margin is a mere 1.3 boards in the positive ledger, and there have been some curious results along the way. Longwood outrebounded Georgetown 30-22 in their Dec. 10 meeting. Liberty's J.R. Coronado led everyone with 13 boards in its game with the Hoyas on Nov. 14.
That doesn't bode well in the rugged Big East, especially against a Marquette front line that features 6-foot-8, 290-pound forward Devante Gardner and 6-9, 275-pound center Chris Otule.
"We have to box out our man," forward Mikael Hopkins said. "When the shot goes up, find our man and box him out. Hopefully, that will stop their second chance shots."
Thompson is hoping for more out of Hopkins (3.0 rpg) and Lubick (5.1 rpg) against the bigger Golden Eagles frontcourt, even as both players face a size disadvantage.
"They have to work, there's no doubt," Thompson said. "Marquette's two post players are probably as big as any two that are in our conference. They are pretty big, effective and physical. Our interior guys are going to have to work."
Time and again, Georgetown's players offered up desire when discussing their rebounding struggles. Porter, a natural on the glass, suggested that while the team is trying, there is much work to be done.
"In practice, we talk about it a lot," he said. "It shows in practice — guys actually try to go for rebounds whether it's short or long. But on both ends of the court, we have to put a lot more effort into it.
"You never know. You go in for a rebound and it might just come right to you. That's why you keep going every time."
And while Thompson wants his squad to get better on the glass, he also knows that the bounces will have to go the Hoyas' way.
"You can talk about techniques and boxing out and you do this and you do that, but at the end of the day, you have to be willing to go touch someone and run down the ball," he said.
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