Ronnie Brewer has 16 rebounds through two games, including 13 on the defensive end. That may surprise some, but Stan Heath said Wendesday that there is a logical explanation.
"Both teams we've played pulled their big men away from the basket and tried to run back cuts for some easy points," Heath said. "That means that Rashard Sullivan, Billy Pharis and Vincent Hunter were not on the blocks for defensive rebounds. Our guards were under the basket more than our forwards."
Heath expects Brewer to continue to help on the glass, although doesn't know if he'll be the leading rebounder by season's end.
"Ronnie has long arms and he anticipates the flight of the ball so well," Heath said. "He is a great rebounder. He follows the ball and goes to get it. We will have some others step up in the rebounding department. I suspect Rashard Sullivan will do a better job of that. Last year, towards the end of the year, he was averaging almost eight rebounds in limited minutes."
Brewer's numbers could change as the season progresses and the Hogs play teams with conventional offensive sets that put big men on the blocks.
"Rashard Sullivan will be a rebounding force for us, I believe, and Vincent averaged double figures in rebounds in Cancun," Heath said. "I think our big men will help us in rebounds.
"One of the things that has happened so far is that we haven't gotten a lot of offensive rebounds (only 11) in our first two games. That sounds bad, but we are shooting a much higher percentage (51.9) than last year. There are not as many offensive rebounds to get. I think we can do a better job in that area, but the numbers are hard to get when you shoot well like we've done so far."
Heath was pleased after viewing the film of the Hogs' 64-46 victory over Grambling State.
"I wasn't happy after the game, but the last three minutes contributed a lot to that," Heath said. "We had just 10 turnovers until the last three minutes when we subbed some guys that we wanted to get some game minutes. Those guys had six turnovers in a short period of time. We had only five in the first half and five until we subbed in the second half. That was pretty good.
"I saw some things we wanted to fix that got fixed and that was good. I was hard on Vincent Hunter last night because he left his feet a lot trying for blocks. He's got to do a better job of that, but he did so many things well that we had worked on in practice. I saw a big improvement in a lot of areas with Vincent.
"We had some periods where we played very well with great player movement and great ball movement. Then we had a three-minute stretch where we were stagnant and took quick shots or made a quick turnover. That's what lost the lead over the last few minutes of the first half. We can correct those things."
It looks like the Hogs will continue to go with a small lineup. Stan Heath liked the four guard lineup with one forward in the Grambling State game.
"We don't have a real choice," Heath said. "That's our best combination. Olu Famutimi has the body and the ability to play against a bigger man and that's the way we've played best, in my opinion. The forward may change a lot between Billy Pharis, Vincent Hunter and Rashard Sullivan. It's a flip of a coin there.
"Our defense against shooters is so much better when we have four guards out there. We are just so much quicker."
As far as this weekend's game, there have been several schedules printed with wrong starting times for the Arkansas-Jacksonville State game for Saturday in Altell Arena in NLR. The correct time is 1:05 p.m.
Heath is concerned that the crowd will be small because of the nature of the opponent. He mentioned that the Hogs couldn't play Oklahoma State in Alltel if the Hogs had to play OSU at Gallagher-Iba Arena last year.
"We looked at finding a big name opponent for this date at Alltel, but it just couldn't be worked out," Heath said. "I hope our fans in the central part of the state and the east and southeast will come to this game. It's a great opportunity to see how hard we play and what our program is about. I hope for a good crowd. I do know that if we don't do better than getting it half filled, we can't keep doing this just because of the finances."
Of course, the Hogs will play host to Illinois at Alltel next season. Interestingly, the Hogs will have a chance to play Illinois twice next season since they are both playing in a holiday tournament together in the Bahamas.
"We've been told that we will be in opposite brackets so we wouldn't meet until the finals," Heath said. "Yes, we could play twice next year."
Heath said that he is looking into other possible Big Ten foes for the future after the Illinois series ends next year. There have been talks with both Purdue and Iowa, although most of those matchups are in limbo because of possible plans for a SEC vs. Big Ten series for television.
"We've blocked off some dates for the Big Ten series, if it happens," Heath said. "It's too early to tell what will happen, but we would like to play a Big Ten team each year."
Heath Pleased After Film Study
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