The Tar Heels more than doubled up Florida State on the glass last Saturday in Tallahassee, posting a 41-19 advantage. UNC pulled down as many offensive rebounds (19) as the Seminoles had total.
That’s standard fare, of course, for North Carolina. The Tar Heels rank second in the ACC in rebounding margin (plus-6.6), trailing only Maryland (plus-11.1), their opponent on Saturday.
During the Roy Williams era, UNC has finished the season ranked first or second in the ACC in rebounding margin in all but one year – his first (’03-04).
“My first year at Kansas, I had a prospect come in that said, ‘I thought there were just 10 commandments, but there must be an 11th – ‘Thou Shalt Box Out,’ Williams told reporters on Friday. “Because if we see one guy in practice not box out, we stop and run every day. Because I really do believe it’s that important.”
UNC’s post players, as expected, have long dominated the rebounding statistics, especially since Williams returned to Chapel Hill. Sean May and Marvin Williams led the ’04-05 team in rebounding on the way to the national championship, Tyler Hansbrough, Ed Davis and Deon Thompson controlled the boards for the next title run and John Henson and Tyler Zeller helped North Carolina lead the country in rebounding margin (plus-10.5) last season.
What stands out about UNC’s effectiveness on the boards against Florida State, however, is that Desmond Hubert, Brice Johnson and Joel James – the three post players battling for the fifth starting spot – combined for just three rebounds in 27 minutes.
James Michael McAdoo, who leads the team with 8.1 rebounds per game, grabbed eight boards against the Seminoles, while Reggie Bullock (8) and P.J. Hairston (4) were also strong on the boards. Former walk-on Jackson Simmons played a critical role down the stretch and pulled down four offensive rebounds, but even his effort doesn’t hide the fact that UNC’s backcourt outrebounded its frontcourt, 18-16.
Bullock is second on the team in rebounding (5.8), while Hairston (4.4) ranks third coming off the bench.
While Williams couldn’t think of a past team that had to rely so much on its perimeter players crashing the boards, he did attribute the statistical differences to an unsettled frontcourt.
“I think it’s probably more people involved in the rotation upfront than maybe any team I’ve had in a long time,” Williams said.
That situation has led to an increased effort for everyone to be more involved on the glass. Other than certain player-specific responsibilities in getting to long rebound positions on the court and the point guard having to get back on defense, everybody else is expected to crash the boards every time.
“This year it’s more of a collective effort,” freshman point guard Marcus Paige said. “We don’t have ‘Z’ and John pulling in double-digit rebounds every night, but we have all of our guys committed to try to own the boards. Coach has done a really good job relaying that message to us in practice and in the games.”
Williams noted that while his team has had some “great” rebounding games this year, there have been spells of poor rebounding. North Carolina has outrebounded its opponent by 10.8 rebounds in its 11 wins and has been outrebounded by its opponent by 2.8 in its five losses.
The Terrapins have outrebounded all 17 of their opponents this season, but the rebounding differential has decreased to plus-3.5 in ACC play. UNC, on the other hand, has increased its differential to plus-8.0 in conference games.
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