Irish Need To Clean The Glass

As Notre Dame gets closer to Big East play, rebounding continues to be a major concern. Head coach Mike Brey can make some adjustments to put the Irish in better position to get boards, but ultimately it will come down to players doing what they need to to get rebounds.

With just two non-conference games left before league play starts, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey feels that the players need to do a better job of rebounding and the staff has to put them in the right spots on defense to be in position to grab rebounds.

"I think it's a little bit of both. I've got to help them and put them in positions defensively and change defenses," Brey said. "That means when do we play more zone?"

Brey needs to be selective about when to go after rebounds and when to go after shooters.

"It certainly wasn't a time to play zone against (BU) the way they were lighting it up," he said. "A lot of these teams that come in here shoot it so freely, it's a little scary sometimes to play too much zone against some of these non-conference teams. When we get into the Big East it's a concern."

Junior forward Luke Harangody, who leads the Irish with 12.4 boards per game, does not believe that games against teams like the Terriers provide an accurate gauge of how the Irish are rebounding, but it does bother him.

"I don't think it's that much of a big deal because you see the game against Boston and they shot a lot of outside shots and it's coming off pretty crazy. So in a game like that I think you have to look at that," said Harangody. "But losing the last two games the rebounding margin, for me personally, that affects how I'm thinking out there."

No Irish player even nears Harangody's production on the glass, with Zach Hillesland second on the team with an average of 6.3 boards, but Brey is hoping for some other guys to develop a more aggressive attitude to help Harangody.

"I think that's something that's evolved with Zach and Luke Zeller. Ryan Ayers more, even Kyle (McAlarney) has to help us, we know Tory (Jackson) helps," said Brey. "I think it's something that you have to keep emphasizing to a couple guys. They know it. We went into the Ireland practices with a focus on that and knew that that would be an area that we're always going to have to keep an eye on and do the best we can with."

Harangody is confident his teammates will step up.

"I think it's going to come and we're going to start to realize what we need to do to win the rebounding battle," he said. "I think there's going to be a number of guys that step up like Zach and Luke Zeller."

Jackson is listed at 5-11, but is fourth on the team in rebounds behind Harangody, Hillesland and Zeller, who is averaging 5.0 a contest.

"That's what kind of gets me started, rebounding and being active on the defensive end," said Jackson. "That gets me started and gets me in a better groove, not just starting off hitting a jump shot or something like that. I feel like if I can help my team rebound and get us going, I can get going."

Jackson is averaging 4.2 boards per game, but expects his numbers to increase as the Irish get into Big East play.

"We've been going two guards to stay back because a lot of teams have been running," he said. "You don't want to get beat on a fastbreak game. You never want it to be two-on-one… but I think we're going to change it up and send me to the boards, send me to the glass more and get us extra shots."

As a point guard, Jackson takes a special satisfaction out of going in and battling with the big men for rebounds.

"It gives us extra turns to get points and it kind of hurts the demeanor of the other team when a guard can go down there and rebound over a bigger guy or get an easy tip-in or something like that," he said. "It kind of crushes a team."

As a team, Notre Dame has been outrebounded by an average of 40.9 to 38.7 and that margin figures to expand when the Irish get into the Big East portion of their schedule, but Brey hopes to limit the gap with some coaching adjustments.

"I think we've got to change defenses a little bit to kind of help our guys with that," he said. "Obviously, that means rotating into some zone, which can pack it in a little bit more and not be as opened up lanes to the rim."

But Brey added that the players will have to do their parts.

"Some of it's on our guys too, no question," he said. "To be better about blockouts and I think that's where the practice regiment that we can get into when we come back from Christmas."

Harangody put most of the onus on him and his teammates.

"I really don't know how much that helps," he said of changing defenses. "I think it's basically just getting a body on someone and the will just to get the ball and we need to take care of that."

Jackson agreed with Harangody.

"Most of it is just having heart to go down there and rebound and get extra possessions," he said. "The last couple of times that we've been outrebounded and it was early a lot teams were beating us to loose balls and we're better than that."

Brey said that there is only so much the Irish can do with their personnel.

"Our backsides aren't going to get any bigger and our vertical jumps aren't going to get any higher before Big East play starts," he said. "We play against some just unbelievable athletic ability where sometimes teams in our league, the best play for them is a missed shot. That's not lost on me, I've been in the league a long time. Calming that down is always a concern for me and our guys know it."

At some point, the Irish will have to concentrate on what they do well to win games.

"You can get focused too much on block out drills. Sometimes I get to the point where, ‘Let's just score more and it'll take care of that.' It sounds real simple, but given who we are sometimes we have to look and say, ‘What gets us into a better offensive efficiency where that doesn't come back to bite us,'" he said. "That's no mystery to you guys, you've seen how we play. There's a balance there too.

"The worst thing in the world would be doing blockout drills and get three of my shooters hurt. Now that would be stupid as a coach."


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