Winning the rebounding battle a key for Aggies
Against Utah Valley on Saturday night, Spencer Butterfield missed a contested, but close, bank shot by the hoop.
As the Wolverines waited for the ball to drop, Jarred Shaw swooped above them all, tipping it in for an easy bucket.
The play was unremarkable, even forgettable compared to some of the other season highlights for Utah State (6-1) this year. But it illustrates a big reason the Aggies have thrived: They clean the boards. And they're proud of it.
"In practice, man, we do whatever we have to do," Kyisean Reed says. "We scrap with each other, foul each other, do whatever we have to do. That type of play is contagious."
The rebounds have been rolling in for Utah State this year. The Aggies boast a 15-board-per-game advantage over their opponents, good for the third-best mark in Division I basketball. Every game this year, they've outrebounded the other team by at least 10.
Size has something to do with it, sure. Having a 6-foot-11 center like Shaw manning the post helps add to that total, and the junior is averaging double-digit boards.
But it's a team effort: No one else on the squad averages more than Reed's 6.4 rpg. But a big key is that the guards do their part: Going against 3-point shooting teams mean that there's a lot of loose balls that everyone has to pitch in to grab. Even Preston Medlin and Butterfield are among the team's best rebounders.
"Defensively, everybody knows that all five guys have to get in there," Reed says. "We don't want to be a soft team, and that attitude is part of it."
Last season was among Utah State's worse statistical rebounding seasons. The Aggies finished with a rebounding margin of only 0.7 rpg, which left the coaching staff dismayed.
During the team's four straight WAC title seasons, the Aggies averaged more than a 6-rebound-per-game margin in three of those years. Traditionally in Morrill's inside-based offense, beating other teams on the boards has been the key to success.
But even as well as the Aggies are rebounding now, they are constantly reminded to keep at it.
"We try not to get complacent or worry about where we stand in the country," Shaw says. "I think we've understood that how hard you play determines if you win. And getting rebounds is a big part of that."
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USU v. Nicholls State • Thursday, 8 p.m.
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