It’s still far too early to glean too much confidence from Colorado’s rebounding numbers. Yet after losing one of the top rebounders in the Pac-12 Conference in Tyler Bey, those numbers at least have been encouraging for the Buffaloes in the season’s early stages.
Through the Buffs’ 4-1 start, CU has outrebounded its opponent in every game. While the competition hasn’t exactly equaled what CU will face as a matter of routine in Pac-12 play, the Buffs have done what they’ve needed to do on the glass and even outrebounded then-No. 12 Tennessee on the road in CU’s only loss so far.
As the Buffs turn a corner on the schedule for the de facto start of Pac-12 play — CU faces Washington on Sunday (8 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks) in a game that will be played as a nonconference game — head coach Tad Boyle is hoping to see a little more glasswork out of the Buffs at the offensive end of the floor. The matchup against the Huskies could provide that opportunity, as the zone defense employed by Washington is the sort that leaves teams vulnerable to offensive rebounds.
“I think we’re battling. I think we need to be a better offensive rebounding team,” Boyle said. “That’s one area where I think we can really improve upon. The other night, Jabari Walker did a great job, he had nine defensive rebounds but no offense. That offensive rebounding total is something I really want to take a hard look at as we get going. And Washington plays a zone. The one thing about zones is sometimes hard to box out against zones, but it’s not hard to box out if your guys aren’t going. We’ve got to get three guys to the offensive glass every time a shot goes up. It’s going to be a big key for this game coming up on Sunday.”
Thus far, a collective effort has allowed the Buffs to replace the nine rebounds a game grabbed by Bey last year.
Most notably, the addition of transfer Jeriah Horne (6.2 rebounds per game) and Walker (4.8) has more than offset the absence of Bey. Seven-footer Dallas Walton probably has a higher rebounding ceiling than the 3.2 he has averaged so far, but that is still two more boards per game than he averaged last year. Redshirt freshman guard Keeshawn Barthelemy has added 2.5 rebounds per game to the equation, and Maddox Daniels (3.8 per game) also is grabbing two more per game than last year (1.3).
Heading into Friday’s games, the Buffs ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in overall rebounds per game (39.4) and third in rebounding margin (plus-8.0). Washington, conversely, ranked last in rebounding margin at minus-7.3.
As Boyle noted, however, the Buffs have room for improvement on the offensive glass. Through five games CU has averaged 10.8 offensive rebounds per game, though that total was bloated somewhat when the Buffs grabbed 16 offensive rebounds in the season opener against South Dakota. In the four games since, CU has averaged 9.5 offensive rebounds.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job, but we can do better in offensive rebounding,” CU forward Evan Battey said. “That’s where we can make strides and be one of the best teams. We’ve put an emphasis on offensive rebounding. As far as our opponents, Tennessee, they’re a good rebounding team. Kansas State was a pretty good rebounding team.
“Often times, those kinds of teams, their best offense is when they get the shot up, then they’re going to the glass. We’ve had a defensive mindset to keep them off the boards. We have to have that offensive mindset of go get it.”