Owning the Offensive Glass

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina’s frontcourt was able to capitalize on plenty of second-chance opportunities on Sunday night.

Throughout the 103-59 win, UNC’s front line imposed its will on Robert Morris’ defenders around the basket. The Tar Heels finished the game with 20 offensive rebounds that resulted in 20 second-chance points.

“It’s going there,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said when asked about the key to his team’s offensive rebounding. “I’ve said all year in every practice that part of our zone offense, particularly, has got to be our offensive rebounding and we did have that in the first half.”

Sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks and junior forward Brice Johnson combined for eight offensive boards to lead the way for UNC.

Last season Meeks (10th nationally in OR%) and Johnson (83rd OR%) had tremendous success on the offensive glass, but another year of experience combined with a strong offseason workout program has allowed both players to be even more effective this season.

“[Johnson] gaining weight and me slimming down made us a lot more aggressive,” Meeks said following the win.

UNC’s offense has long been recognized for its breakneck pace, but Williams’s teams have also been incredibly strong at crashing the glass on the offensive end of the court.

UNC averaged 13.7 points per game in second-chance scoring last season. According to kenpom.com, Carolina also ranked 13th in the nation in rebounding percentage at 38.1 percent.

Against Robert Morris, the Heels were well above their average from a season ago.

“Kennedy and I were just exploding up there and were able to get it,” Johnson said. “We just did a good job of keeping it high after we got the rebound and put it back up there.”

Entering this season, Williams has stressed that he needs one of his starting forwards to establish themselves as a force on the offensive end. Sunday served as a good starting point.

“What we’ve got to do is see that over the course of a season,” Williams said. “I thought last year those guys had some really good games every now and then, but it’s got to be on a consistent basis like Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Tyler Hansbrough, Sean May - those guys give it to you every night.”

Johnson was quick to agree with his head coach.

“You need to be consistent,” he said. “Just have to go out there every day with the same mentality that we did today … We just have to do that and this team can go as far as it wants.”

Johnson and Meeks weren’t the only UNC forwards to make their presence known around the basket. During a 12-second stretch in the middle of the second half, sophomore Isaiah Hicks had a brilliant sequence of plays.

Hicks followed a missed Justin Jackson jumper with a thunderous right-handed putback slam that drew a roar from the crowd. On UNC’s next possession, Hicks followed another errant shot by boxing out a Colonials defender for an easy two-handed flush.

“All of us have been a lot more aggressive going to the basket and scoring off offensive rebounds,” Meeks said. “Coach has really wanted us to establish an inside presence.”

Even though this season is still in its infancy, Williams has high praise and high expectations for what he thinks this team could accomplish on the offensive glass.

“This could be the best offensive rebounding team I’ve ever coached,” Williams said. “Now we have to do it.”

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