Arkansas Ramping Up Emphasis On Rebounding

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Plenty of qualitative evidence exists concerning Arkansas' recent rebounding struggles.

The first examples that come to mind must be the two crucial offensive rebounds No. 23 LSU grabbed Wednesday night against the Razorbacks. With a chance to earn a possession down only one point, Arkansas failed twice.

But when analyzing Arkansas' Southeastern Conference downfall from a quantitative perspective, the young Razorbacks' rebounding problems seem even more drastic. The Hogs have outrebounded their opponent only three times in 11 Southeastern Conference games entering tonight's contest at South Carolina (18-7, 7-4).

"We have to get to the point where we're pursuing the ball better, especially on the offensive end," Arkansas assistant coach Rob Evans said. "It's a learning experience. (Our young frontcourt players) are learning how to get off screens, get off block-outs and get to the rebounds."

Judging from Arkansas' inability to nab crucial rebounds, the educational process for Arkansas' freshman post players hasn't come close to ending. Junior forward Michael Washington has held his own, averaging an SEC-high 9.6 rebounds this season.

But outside of Washington, the Razorbacks (13-11, 1-10) lack a consistent second rebounder. In fact, their No. 2 rebounder is Courtney Fortson, a 5-foot-11 freshman point guard who averages 5.3 boards per contest.

Fortson said he has tried his best to encourage Arkansas' inexperienced big men — freshmen Michael Sanchez, Brandon Moore and Andre Clark. Still, Fortson said there's more room for aggressiveness.

"I think (we can give more) effort," Fortson said. "I'm one of the smallest guys on the court at all times, and I rebound. So it's got to be effort."

Sanchez admitted the frontcourt "has something to prove" regarding its SEC rebounding woes. He said the entire team was sick of seeing other teams rack up huge offensive rebounding numbers.

LSU combined for 38 offensive rebounds in its two victories over the Razorbacks.

"Rebounding comes from a heart aspect and a mental aspect, knowing where the ball's going to bounce, making sure you're blocking out your man every time," Sanchez said. "You have to have that knack for the ball, knowing where the ball's going to bounce, and we're still working on that."

Arkansas could get a bit of a reprieve tonight in Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina, which is tied for the Eastern Division lead, ranks 11th in rebounding margin (minus-4.2) during league play. Then again, the Razorbacks are only one spot ahead of the Gamecocks in 10th (minus-3.5).

Unfortunately, Evans said, part of the answer lies with the Razorbacks simply adding strength and experience. It's easy to see the difference in muscularity between players like Sanchez, Clark and Moore and LSU frontcourt bruiser Tasmin Mitchell and 6-11 center Chris Johnson.

"We looked on tape (from the) LSU and Auburn (games) and our guys were jumping," Evans said. "We were just being jumped over. So it's a combination of things. We just have to do a better job boxing out and pursuing rebounds."

Today's Ticket

Arkansas at South Carolina

When: 6 p.m. TV: None

Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, S.C.

Records: Arkansas 13-11, 1-10 Southeastern Conference; South Carolina 18-6, 7-4

Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-AM 1290, FM 105.3

Coaches: Arkansas, John Pelphrey (36-23, 2nd season at Arkansas; 180-126 overall in 10 seasons); South Carolina, Darrin Horn (18-6, 1st season at South Carolina; 129-54 overall in 6 seasons)

Series: Arkansas leads 12-8 (South Carolina has won six of the past nine meetings)

Last Meeting: South Carolina beat Arkansas 70-66 on Jan. 16, 2008, in Fayetteville

Arkansas Rebounding Breakdown In SEC Play

The Razorbacks have grabbed more rebounds than their foe only three times in 11 Southeastern Conference games.

Opponent Arkansas Rebounds Opponent Rebounds

Mississippi State 42 38

at Florida 34 36

at Ole Miss 33 39

Auburn 41 43

Alabama 33 32

at LSU 32 45

Tennessee 32 30

at Mississippi State 31 35

at Auburn 37 43

Kentucky 30 35

LSU 34 41

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