University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was forced to try something new during Saturday's win over Central Florida.
Pitino inserted Wayne Blackshear into the starting lineup at the power forward position, an effort to produce more scoring, rather than trying to address the team's most glaring weakness: rebounding.
Getting little help from the team's post players not named Montrezl Harrell, the Cards have routinely been out-rebounded this season- both in losses (the Cards were beaten 36-25 on the boards in Thursday's crushing to Cincinnati) and in victories (they were most recently out-boarded in wins over South Florida and Southern Methodist).
The team's 38.2 rebounds per game average ranks No. 49 in the nation.
"We might have to go small, and just stay with it," Pitino said when discussing his decision to start Blackshear at the four. "We're getting beat on the glass too much, and we just have to adjust."
Help in the rebounding department could come from the team's most noted hustle-player: forward/center Stephan Van Treese. The senior's five rebounds per game is good for second on the team behind Montrezl Harrell's 8.3.
Van Treese, who grabbed six rebounds and added six points in the win over UCF, said rebounding is more a matter of heart and hustle than something that can be improved through coaching.
"It's more of a mental thing," Van Treese said, before admitting that the Cardinals' defensive scheme has made rebounding a new and more challenging part of his job description.
"(Rebounding) is tough a times. Last year it was easier because we were in zone (defense) a lot. This year it's a little different because we're doing a lot of switches. It's a little different for me.
"I'm trying to adjust to playing man-to-man, switching, and then I've got to be able to go running at the ball. So now it's just more of an effort thing."
Fortunately, effort is what the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Van Treese is known for. He earned the nickname "Big Hustle" for his hard work and propensity to do the small, unnoticed things in limited minutes during the Cards' championship run last season.
In a bigger role this season- just under 20 minutes per contest- Van Treese has continued to maintain his reputation by accumulating hustle stats. On the season, he's tallied 107 rebounds, 20 blocks and 19 steals. Still, the big man knows there's work to be done in one of his specialty areas.
"For us to be dominant and to be a better team, we have to be better at rebounding. We're not going to go far in the tournament without rebounds."