As much as basketball is about making shots, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's game this afternoon against Southern Conference foe Appalachian State could come down to who is able to corral the most misses.
UTC's Mocs enter the 2 p.m. "throwback game" in Maclellan Gymnasium first in the SoCon in defensive rebounding and percentage, grabbing 33.2 per game and nearly 73 percent of the opponents' misses. Appalachian State gets 16.2 offensive rebounds a game for an average of 43 percent of its own missed shots. Basically, something is going to have to give between the two teams with the best rebounding margins in the conference.
UTC (19-3, 11-0) has been led on the glass by senior Taylor Hall, who gets 7.1 of her 8.8 rebounds per game on the defensive side, which is tops in the league. Behind her is Appalachian State junior Maryah Sydnor, who is second in the conference in rebounding -- slightly ahead of Hall -- at 8.9 per game. The 6-foot-1 Sydnor also leads the conference at 20.5 points per outing.
When the teams played on Jan. 13 in Boone, N.C., the Lady Mountaineers (9-12, 6-5) won the battle of the boards 35-30, and it took an overtime period for the Mocs to pull out a 73-68 win.
"I think you have to be cognizant of the fact that they rebound the ball well," UTC coach Jim Foster said. "Everybody brings something to the table. We work on everything on a regular basis: You can't play one way for three weeks, then for a weekend be different. You have to be who are you every day; you emphasize it every day, not once every three or four weeks."
The Mocs' leading offensive rebounder isn't a post; it's junior Tatianna Jackson, who has 38 of her 71 rebounds on the offensive backboards.
"It's very important to Coach Foster for us to rebound well, because the more rebounds we get the more shots we can get," she said. "If you crash the boards, the ball will usually come to you because a lot of teams don't box out, so it's easy to get the offensive rebounds most of the time, and it helps the team out, so it's important to me."
Ashlen Dewart, who averages five rebounds per contest, said that hitting the boards is a combination of desire, effort and positioning. Having the size to rebound doesn't automatically make one a good rebounder.
"It's impossible to get a good win if you don't rebound. Especially against a team like App," Dewart said. "Being able to read the ball off the rim is a key, and Taylor and Tat do a good job of that. I think that it comes down to boxing out and doing the work. We don't do specific drills in practice, but if you don't rebound in practice, you're going to get called out, so we hold each other responsible, compete and go get it."
Said Foster: "You've got to put a body on people, because the average person doesn't have the instincts to rebound, and those that do become superior. When you put a body on somebody, their chances of getting that rebound are less, so that becomes an important part of the game."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.