PULLMAN – Coach Ken Bone says at times it’s a matter of simply being outmanned.
Brock Motum thinks Washington State just needs to box out better in its 2-3 zone.
Charlie Enquist laments that the Cougars have been the victim of a few bad bounces.
Whatever the reason – and in truth, it’s likely a combination of the aforementioned – the Cougars have struggled to rebound this season. They rank ninth in the Pac-12 in rebounding margin at 0.2, ninth in defensive rebounding percentage and 10th in offensive rebounding percentage.
The worst of it came Sunday, when WSU was outrebounded 46-24 – and 22-4 on the offensive glass – by Washington in a 75-65 loss.
“It’s surprising that they would get that many offensive rebounds,” Bone said. “On the other hand, we knew going into the season that could be our Achilles’ heel, is being able to keep people off the offensive boards.”
But why? Bone said that on Sunday, the Cougars may have simply been outsized against a bigger, more physical Washington team. Their task won’t be any easier on Thursday against Stanford, which leads the conference in rebounding margin (7.3) and is second in offensive rebounding percentage (37.9).
So while it’s true that the Cougars need more size – and they’ll get it soon enough, with 6-foot-10 center Richard Peters and 6-foot-6 Richard Longrus arriving next season – the players on their current roster aren’t likely to grow in the next two days.
So how do they improve before then?
Motum, one of four WSU regulars taller than 6-foot-5, said the Cougars need to do a better job of finding a body to block out when they’re playing zone. The problem the zone presents is obvious – because players aren’t guarding a specific man, they aren’t assigned a specific man to box out, either. Finding one is a priority.
“Once we get that down, I think we’ll be really hard to score on,” said Motum, who leads WSU with 15.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. “Because I think we shift really well in our zone and we take up space and we close out on shooters. That last step is just rebounding. Once we get that, it’ll be really effective.”
Bone said the team’s rebounding issue extends beyond its use of a zone defense, citing the last five minutes of the UW loss when the Cougars played man-to-man, “and it’s not like all of a sudden we were able to outrebound them.”
“Every day in practice, we need to make it a priority to put in competitive drills, and there’s a winner and there’s a loser, whether it’s by individual or by team, when we compete for rebounding” Bone said. “The weight room helps. Height helps. Quickness helps.”
“When we do rebounding drills, we do it out of man,” said senior forward Charlie Enquist. “So I’m sure we’re going to do a lot more out of zone. When we do more zone in games, we’re going to have to learn how to rebound better out of the zone.”
Enquist said he doesn’t think it’s a matter of aggression or effort. And Bone also praised the Cougars for continuing to work hard during rebounding drills in practice.
But the coach’s comments suggest this is a problem best solved by the addition of rebounding-oriented personnel.
“That’s not to fault the guys in our program. Our guys work hard at it,” Bone said. “Almost every single day, we do rebounding, and our kids work really hard at rebounding. But sometimes, it’s like one of those situations where you can work on throwing an alley-oop to a 6-foot kid that can’t jump very well, and you can try and try and try all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s hard for that guy to get up and get it and dunk it.
“Our kids are working really hard in the rebounding area, but at times we are outmanned by other teams. So we need to do a good job of recruiting some rebounders.”