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Syracuse benefits from guards’ rebounding in ACC play

first_imgDuke’s Alex O’Connell fired a shot from the wing early in Monday’s second half as Syracuse battled the No. 1 Blue Devils. Standing above the right elbow in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Frank Howard tracked the shot as it bounced off the rim. Two of the Blue Devils’ highest leapers, Zion Williamson and Javin DeLaurier, crashed hard toward the basket from the perimeter.But Howard drifted down into the lane, anticipated a rebound off the back of the rim and snatched it before Williamson, who was sprinting in for a put-back slam. Howard’s movement and anticipation were subtle but also indicative of a trend that’s helped Syracuse to three wins in its first four conference games.No. 1 Duke entered Monday’s contest against Syracuse (12-5, 3-1 Atlantic Coast) with the fourth-highest offensive rebounding rate in the country, per KenPom.com. The stats show the Blue Devils still executed on the offensive glass, but the Orange did enough to get to overtime and pull out a 95-91 win. Elijah Hughes, Tyus Battle and Howard all grabbed at least four rebounds and eclipsed their season averages.“That’s what we haven’t been doing,” Syracuse University head coach Jim Boeheim said of SU’s rebounding after the win against Duke. “That was a big part of winning.”In Syracuse’s nine nonconference games since Howard returned against Colgate on Nov. 21, SU’s three 6-foot-6-or-shorter starters averaged 8.33 rebounds collectively per game. They’ve upped that to 13.5 per matchup in the Orange’s four ACC games, with the worst output (seven) coming in SU’s lone conference loss, last Saturday to Georgia Tech. The increased rebounding rate has accounted for 32.9 percent of SU’s rebounds in conference play.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“(Rebounding) was good for us,” Battle said after Notre Dame on Jan. 5. “I think that’s what we need to do to win games going forward.”Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorHughes, who plays one of the wing spots along the backline of Syracuse’s zone, would normally be in the best position of the guards to grab rebounds. But he rarely appeared to attack the ball off the rim, contributing to SU’s nonconference struggles.That changed when the Orange opened conference play at Notre Dame. Hughes grabbed 10 rebounds against the Fighting Irish, with nine coming on the defensive end. After the game, Hughes remarked that a lot of balls bounced right to him — and that’s true, as a few of his boards fell right into his lap. But more consistently, it appeared Hughes wanted to go get the basketball.“Coach has been on me and Elijah about it, so we’ve been trying to do a better job,” Battle said.Battle added five rebounds of his own against the Irish. He emphasized that it’s important for him as a guard to come back and grab the long rebounds that come off 3-pointers.And against Duke, Battle made a few big plays on the glass. Midway through the second half, Blue Devils forward Jack White took a 3 from the right wing and Williamson slid inside Oshae Brissett behind Syracuse’s defense. The Duke phenom had perfect position for the rebound. But Battle drifted back into the play, leapt over Williamson and snagged the ball.And with less than four minutes to go, a 3-point miss from White bounced out toward Duke guards on the perimeter for a long rebound. But Battle had tracked back into the lane and extended a firm right hand to catch the ball off the rim. That rebound led to an SU lead, as a Battle miss at the other end was followed up for two by Paschal Chukwu.In addition to Howard’s season-high six rebounds against Duke, he recovered late for one to seal SU’s win over Clemson. When Marcquise Reed drove right by him with about a minute to go, Howard could’ve stood and watched from the outside. In the past, SU’s guards were often prone to watching instead of following. But Howard sped behind Reed, allowing Howard to grab the ball after Marek Dolezaj swatted the Clemson guard.The Tigers went on to flagrant foul Howard, meaning he’d shoot free throws and SU would retain possession, all but ending Clemson’s hopes of a road win in the Carrier Dome.“I think we all struggled scoring a little bit toward the end of the game,” Battle said after Clemson, “but we all kinda contributed in any way possible.”In overtime against Duke, Hughes grabbed two rebounds in the final three minutes. The first came on a 3-ball that bounced right to him. But on the second, he was aligned on the same side of the floor as Williamson.As the shot went up from the far side, Hughes peeked over his shoulder and seemed to spot Williamson on the left wing. SU’s redshirt sophomore slid toward the left block to create a better rebounding angle, and as the ball deflected his way, Hughes leapt. Williamson charged, disrupting the board, but Hughes was able to knock it toward Brissett, who deflected it back to Hughes to corral the rebound.Syracuse retained its three-point lead because of Hughes’ willingness to jump with Williamson. It prevented a potential momentum-shifting rebound and dunk by the freshman star. And unlike earlier in the season, Hughes didn’t watch.“It’s really an emphasis every game,” Brissett said on Jan. 5. “But I feel like we’ve made a step in the right direction, having other guys really contribute and help.” Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on January 17, 2019 at 12:02 am Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3center_img Commentslast_img

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