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Cleaning the glass

BY SETH ROBERTS | DECEMBER 14, 2010 7:10 AM

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The Iowa men's basketball team is in a good spot right now.

The Hawkeyes are sitting on a respectable 5-5 record. Considering Iowa's defensive lockdown of Northern Iowa and pair of 3-point losses, the team is arguably enjoying more success in its first 10 games under Fran McCaffery than it did in the entire Todd Lickliter era.

Ask McCaffery about the strong season thus far, and he has one explanation.

"Everything is always, somehow, related to rebounding," the first-year head coach said on Dec. 4.

And his team has been racking up the boards.

Iowa has outrebounded its opponent in nine of its 10 games, despite having only two players taller than 6-7. The team's plus-6.9 rebounding margin is ranked No. 43 out of 336 in the country and is the second-best margin in the Big Ten. Only Wisconsin has a better mark in the conference, and the Badgers have the benefit of four players on the roster who are 6-10 or taller.

Reserve forward Andrew Brommer is one of two Hawkeyes listed at 6-9 and he snatched a pair of offensive boards as part of his 12-point performance against Iowa State on Dec. 10. He said the Hawkeyes make up for their lack of height with determination and plenty of repetition.

"We have a mindset right now that that ball is going to be ours when it's up in the air, and we're going to go get it," he said. "We do that in practice, and I feel like it transfers over to the games."

It certainly has.

The Hawkeyes are averaging 40.6 rebounds per game, a significant jump from the team's 29.7 average through the first 10 games last season. Iowa finished the 2009-10 season with 1,023 total rebounds through 32 games, and the Black and Gold are on pace to finish with 1,299 this year — assuming they also play 32 times.

Everyone is getting in on the action. Guards Eric May and Matt Gatens pull down 4.4 and 3.3 rebounds per contest, respectively.

It's still a forward who is leading the team, though: Freshman Melsahn Basabe averages 6.8 boards.
He said he takes pride in cleaning the glass.

"It's my job," the freshman said. "I feel I'm athletic, and that's basically how I started my game: Getting rebounds before I really developed my offensive game.

"Rebounding is the key to success at every level of basketball. Rebounding is controlling the game. You're controlling the possession, and offensively, you get extra shots."

The extra shots created by crashing the boards have been especially important for a Hawkeye team that hasn't been spectacular at sharing the ball. The squad makes 25.8 field goals per game but only averages 13.9 assists; the rest of the points have to come from somewhere, and a considerable chunk have come from offensive rebounds.

As paramount as rebounding has been, though, there's still room for improvement.

"This year, my rebounding hasn't been as consistent as it has in the past," Basabe admitted after grabbing 14 rebounds in Iowa's Dec. 10 loss to Iowa State. "I need to grab 10-plus boards every night. I know I can do it, so I have to go out there and do it."


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