Coming off a performance where the Rebel front court recorded more fouls (17) than rebounds (13) and a trip to the "Big Easy" forthcoming, head coach Andy Kennedy knew it was time for a change.
West Virginia had dominated the paint that day, grabbing 22 offensive boards to only seven for the Rebels. Not only were defensive rebounds a problem, the front line had appeared passive.
The Mountaineers were allowed 13 more shots, with 17 second-chance points as the result. Plagued by inconsistency, the baby bigs' learning curve was proving larger than once anticipated.
"Chris (Warren) and David (Huertas) attract so much attention from the opponent," Kennedy said. "If our bigs would just put themselves where they're supposed to be, good things can happen."
Kennedy needed answers and needed them quickly. The schedule would only continue to get harder and time for post improvement was steadily dwindling.
As a self-described act of desperation, the Rebel leader reached far down his bench. Now entering the game? Redshirt freshman Kevin Cantinol.
"Chief has been the one guy that hadn't been given a real gametime opportunity," said Kennedy. "Out of desperation, he got that opportunity and gave us great minutes"
While the numbers might not induce glowing enthusiasm, Cantinol's presence was felt. The Guadeloupe, French West Indies native produced eight points and four rebounds in 23 quality minutes – more than any of his other appearances combined.
Cantinol exercised his will on the glass, with only one foul to boot, allowing the Rebels a formidable front court option not seen since the days of Curtis and Williams.
"Kevin played well," said Kennedy. "He gives us a presence if he'll continue to play to his size. He got confident early in the game. He had four big baskets in the first half, got to the offensive glass and defended well. He did some good things for us."
If raw numbers where the only determinant, the 6-10, 250 pound Cantinol would seemingly fit the mold of your everyday post player. The freshman has often been described as having "good feet" and "raw intangibles," but had rarely made an appearance until Saturday.
Heading into the clash with the Pioneers, Cantinol averaged a mere 3.8 minutes per game. With an abundance of post-players on the roster, "Chief" was stricken as the odd man out.
"It's impossible to play five post guys, even four, in our rotation," Kennedy said. "But because we're so erratic on our front line right now, we've had to put that many in a few games this season. That's very hard to do with any rhythm."
But against New Orleans, Cantinol got his chance.
"I've been patient so far this season and I was just waiting on my turn," said the soft-spoken Cantinol. "Since I'm bigger than most people on our team, I bring a type of physicality to floor. Coach (Kennedy) is trying to make me more physical so the game becomes easier for me."
It isn't as if his production came as a total surprise (Cantinol has shown various flashes of ability in practice), but his game hadn't yet translated to the rigors of regular season play.
However, with such a strong performance against the Pioneers, Cantinol will most assuredly be awarded with an increased role in the game plan going forward.
"Saturday was an opportunity for Kevin and he stepped up," Kennedy said. "He's a big kid, with good hands, who has a good feel for the game. The speed of the game is something he has to acclimate himself to soon. He'll continue to get some chances."
Only time will tell if the Cantinol experiment will prove to be the solution to the Rebels' front court woes.
But with what was easily one of the most productive games for any post member this season under his belt, increasing opportunities will surely be his for the taking.
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