Over the last four Southeastern Conference games, Vanderbilt has witnessed its share of bounces. Many of them went right into the other team’s hands.
The Commodores have been on the losing end of the rebounding battle in each of those contests, only one of which they won.
“It is not like we are afraid to go rebound the ball,” forward Jeffery Taylor said. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.”
On Wednesday, Vanderbilt hopes to squash that trend and end a two-game losing streak when it hosts LSU at 8 p.m. (CSS) in what could be considered a trap game with No. 1 Kentucky and ESPN’s College GameDay headed to campus on Saturday.
The Tigers (13-9, 3-5) have lost three of four and five of seven.
Lately, though, they have done what Vanderbilt has not. They have gotten rebounds.
LSU ranks first in the league in offensive rebounding (13.7 per game) and third in total rebounding (37.8 per game). Justin Hamilton paces LSU with 7.4 rebounds and 13.4 points a game.
“They have a lot of big guys that go to the rim when the shots go up,” forward Lance Goulbourne said. “They’re pretty hard to box out against. They’re relentless around the glass.”
Vanderbilt (16-7, 5-3), on the other hand, has given up 14 offensive rebounds in each of its last three games. The Commodores manage the third fewest rebounds per game (35.0) in the SEC and are last in offensive rebounds (10.2).
It is a bit of a head-scratcher considering the presence of athletes such as the 6-foot-8 Goulbourne (7.1 rpg), 6-foot-7 Taylor (5.8) and 6-foot-11 Festus Ezeli (6.2).
Ezeli has been battling knee problems again as he reinjured his left knee against Arkansas last week. He managed just seven rebounds in two games last week but scored a combined 25 points. He played against Florida on Saturday but was held out of practice Monday. He returned to the court Tuesday and is expected to be available on Wednesday.
Against the Razorbacks, who at the time, were the league’s worst rebounding team, the Commodores grabbed just 29 boards — two shy of their season-low.
“We weren’t too happy with that,” said Goulbourne, 10th in the SEC in rebounds. “But we’re working on it. We’ve addressed it. Especially me, being the leader on the team, I’ve got to focus on getting a whole bunch of rebounds for us. [Ezeli] is obviously a guy that can grab rebounds and Jeff as well. So we want to put pressure on people on the offensive glass as well and clean up on the defensive glass.”
Of course, rebounding can be a misleading statistic as well. The more a team misses shots, the more opportunities there are for rebounds. But if a team is shooting at a high percentage, the chances are fewer — but also more valuable.
Still, there appears to be a correlation between Vanderbilt’s rebounding woes and its record. When the Commodores have been outrebounded this season, they are just 2-6.
“It is definitely something we need to do well to have a chance to win any game,” Taylor said. “Give another team too many chances to score the ball, they’ll eventually do it. It is an emphasis before every game.
"LSU is really strong inside. They have a lot of very capable players. So it is definitely up there in the emphasis column.”