Hoosier guards hit the boards

The magic number is 12.

That’s how many defensive rebounds Archie Miller wants each game from his perimeter players.

Since starting center De’Ron Davis suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in early January, the Indiana coach has turned up the pressure on his backcourt. Rebounding is merely one area where Miller is asking his guards to do more.

But to Miller, it’s a big one.

“When your guards rebound it really helps your transition game,” the coach said. “… For the most part, we’re doing a better job, a concerted effort by our perimeter guys. Rebounding has been a big emphasis.”

IU guards have passed the test during the team’s current three-game winning streak, a stretch that has coincided with Davis’ absence. The Hoosiers have met Miller’s mark in all three contests, averaging 14 defensive rebounds from guards across wins over Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern.

Miller wasn’t altogether pleased with the rebounding effort against the Wildcats, who recorded six offensive rebounds in the final 12 minutes of Sunday’s game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. But viewed through a wider lens, Miller commends his guards for their work on the glass and in the paint.

“It’s something we talk about a lot,” senior guard Robert Johnson said. “We have a certain amount of rebounds we want to get every game from the guard position. And Coach is always reminding us throughout the game and at halftime how close we are to that benchmark. And that’s something that I think we’ve done a pretty good job at.”

Johnson led the way with six defensive boards against the Wildcats, and during the past three games, he’s averaging 5.6 defensive rebounds per contest.

Players such as Johnson, Josh Newkirk, Devonte Green, Zach McRoberts and Al Durham have also assisted in other meaningful areas during the current streak.

Beginning with the win at Minnesota on Jan. 6, those five players have combined for 34 assists against 19 turnovers, while averaging 36.3 points.

According to the advanced statistics database at KenPom.com, last week’s win over Penn State featured the most efficient offensive performance against a power conference team in Newkirk’s year and a half with the program. He posted 16 points on 3-of-4 shooting with four assists, one defensive rebound and zero turnovers.

Johnson also posted two of his most efficient performances of the season against Northwestern and Minnesota, while Green also turned in his most efficient game of the season against the Nittany Lions.

“When you get into league play, you’re only as good as your guards,” Miller said. “I think being able to win these two games this week, you can really start and look at our backcourt and say, ‘Josh Newkirk probably had the best two-game stretch of the season.’ He was terrific (Sunday), I thought. He was very good against Penn State.

“When you have solid play at the guard spot it helps you. Rob is Rob. Rob is going to be a guy that we’re going to count on to score a little bit for us. He’s been asked to do a lot. But Devonte had a great game against Penn State. Al came in (Sunday) and made good plays.”

Rebounds, high assists, low turnovers, better shooting percentages — it all adds up to a big challenge Miller has issued to his guards.

Right now, they’re answering the call.

“If we can get those guys to be a little bit more consistent,” Miller said, “our team is going to be better.”

One comment

  1. Second opportunity points can certainly make up for many of the shooting woes…

    Add in a a far stronger team defense and a reduction in the obscene level of turnovers that were the norm during the last chunk of years …and you can still come out ahead in the subtraction and addition game of a scoreboard.

    Seth Davis had a nice quote during the NW vs. OSU game last night…

    “A turnover is an assist for other team’s offense.”

    And the same sorts of cross analogy could be made with rebounding…A lost board opportunity is akin to a turnover. It is a lost opportunity at a most basic basketball positioning skill (honed from instinct, quickness, and technique) ….resulting in a turnover never named as such.

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