Rebounding the ball is key for Wolf Pack | NevadaAppeal.com

Rebounding the ball is key for Wolf Pack

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

RENO – The Nevada Wolf Pack must rebound the basketball in order to rebound from another frustrating loss.

“Everything comes down to rebounding and defending,” said Nevada coach David Carter, whose Wolf Pack will play at San Jose State at 7 p.m. today and at Hawaii at 9 p.m. Saturday in the last road trip of the season. “When you look back on our losses, it’s been rebounding.”

The Wolf Pack were outrebounded for the ninth time in the last 10 games – they tied Fresno State seven games ago on the boards – in suffering a 62-60 loss at Missouri State on Saturday. The Wolf Pack has not outrebounded an opponent since it beat San Jose State 11 games ago on the scoreboard (96-77) and the glass (34-33) at Lawlor Events Center on Jan. 9.

“When the game is close it always comes down to rebounding and defending,” Carter said.

The Wolf Pack, 16-10 overall and 8-4 in the Western Athletic Conference, had tremendous success on the boards in the first 16 games of the year, winning the war on the boards 13 times.

Carter knows the solution to the Pack’s problem.

“The big guys, Luke Babbitt and Dario Hunt, have their hands full every night,” Carter said. “Our guards need to rebound better. We can’t rely on our big guys to rebound every night.”

Babbitt leads the WAC in rebounding at 9.7 a game. Hunt pulls down 7.2 rebounds in just 27 minutes a game.

The difference between the first 16 games and the last 10, though, is declining production on the glass from Joey Shaw, Armon Johnson and Brandon Fields. Shaw, Johnson and Fields averaged 13.2 rebounds combined over the first 16 games. Over the last 10 games, though, they’ve averaged just 9.4 a game combined.

That might not sound like much (just a difference of 3.8 a game) but if you give the Pack four more rebounds a game over the last 10 they would have outrebounded their opponent five times.

“I anticipate in the next couple of games we’ll need to outrebound teams in order to be successful,” Carter said.

San Jose State (13-13, 5-7) features 6-foot-10 center Chris Oakes, who is second in the WAC in rebounding to Babbitt at 9.2 a game. Guard Adrian Oliver, who leads the WAC in scoring at 22.8 a game, also contributes 5.5 rebounds a game. Point guard Justin Graham averages 5.0 rebounds a game.

“Winning on the road comes down to the little things,” Carter said.

Carter expects tough games at both San Jose and Hawaii. The Wolf Pack won at San Jose State 80-68 last year, but lost to the Spartans two years ago (62-60) in the Bay Area. The Pack has won three in a row in Honolulu, but last year the game came down to the final seconds (47-46).

“Both teams will come out fighting,” Carter said. “Hawaii (9-17, 2-10) is fighting just to qualify for the WAC tournament and San Jose State, like us, is fighting for position.”

The loss at Missouri State frustrated the Pack. The Pack took a 57-48 lead with six minutes to play, but proceeded to miss six of seven free throws and five of six field goals the rest of the way. They also turned the ball over three times in those final six minutes.

“We missed some free throws late in the game,” Carter said. “That’s the frustrating part. In my mind we called the right plays and got the ball to the right people. We just didn’t convert those opportunities. We put ourselves in position to win, but just didn’t take advantage of it.”