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UConn WBB Weekly: Huskies coming up short on offensive glass

UConn is one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country though its first four games.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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UConn coming up short on offensive glass

Through a month of the season, no team in the country has shot the ball as well as UConn. The Huskies are hitting 53.0 percent from the floor and own a true field goal percentage (which accounts for the value of a 3-pointer) of 59.3 percent — both of which lead the nation.

So naturally, Geno Auriemma had to find something wrong with that.

“We shoot 53 percent from the floor. So our guys, here’s their mindset: When we shoot, it’s in, turn around, run back on defense,” he said. “That’s the mindset.”

As a result, UConn has been one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the nation. The Huskies are only grabbing 6.3 offensive boards per game and rebound just 24.3 percent of their misses — numbers that rank fifth-worst and 47th-worst in the country, respectively.

Christyn Williams, a guard, and Dorka Juhász lead the team with five offensive rebounds apiece through four games. To put that in perspective, last season five players — Aaliyah Edwards (six times), Olivia Nelson-Ododa (five), Aubrey Griffin (three), Mir McLean (one), and Williams (one) — had five or more offensive rebounds in a single game.

“I think that our offensive rebounding has been pretty bad throughout our past couple of games,” Evina Westbrook declared.

UConn has gotten 24 total second-chance points and never more than nine in a single outing. It’s not a coincidence that Nelson-Ododa, Juhász or Edwards have yet to reach 10 or more points in a game and account for just 20.7 percent of the Huskies’ total scoring.

“Every time we shoot it that’s a pass to you big guys,” Auriemma said. “‘Yo coach, I don’t get the ball.’ Yeah, you do. Every time we shoot it, there’s a pass. Go get it. Great rebounders have that mindset.”

The problem is simple, but not necessarily easy to fix. Naturally, there will be some improvement as UConn’s offense starts to gel.

“I think when you execute your offense, people are in better position to offensive rebound,” Auriemma said. “When shots are coming — when everybody knows the shots are coming — you offensive rebound better.”

The other part — the more simple part — is the Huskies simply need to rebound better. It’s not much more difficult than that. As mentioned above, Edwards, Nelson-Ododa and Griffin have all shown they can dominate the offensive glass while Juhász has the size, strength and aggressiveness to do so as well.

Often, a problem on the court can’t be solved simply by saying “do better”. But in this case, UConn just needs to attack the glass better.

“If you ask [assistant coach] Jamelle [Elliott]: ‘Jamelle, what do you think we need to work on [to be] a better rebounding team?’ She goes, ‘Go get the ball.’ That was always her response when she played. ‘Go get the ball.’ We stand here and watch somebody else get. So that’s basically it,” Auriemma said.

UConn should eventually get a boost from Aubrey Griffin, who’s set to return on Friday at Seton Hall after missing the first four games with a high ankle sprain and back issue. She grabbed 14.2 percent of her team’s misses last season, which ranked in the top two percent nationally. Griffin’s impact may not be felt right away since her minutes could be limited depending on how her injuries respond to game action, so UConn can’t rely on her alone.

But another player that excelled for the Huskies on the offensive glass last season is Edwards, though that hasn’t translated over into her sophomore campaign just yet. Through four games, Edwards isn’t playing as physical or aggressive as she’s capable of, which eliminates her main advantage over most opposition.

So far, she has just one offensive rebound and hasn’t been to the free throw line at all. That’s a stark difference compared to Edwards’ freshman year, when she grabbed 2.5 offensive rebounds and averaged 2.7 free throws per game.

“I was talking to Aaliyah today. I said, ‘You have one offensive rebound in four games. You used to get one every possession.’ I remember one game, she had three in one possession,” Auriemma said. “‘You need to get back to that. That’s gotta be a big part of your game. You gotta be that tough guy enforcer for us because you can be. You gotta be that guy that can defend like three or four different positions. Who we know can get an offensive rebound and put it back up. Who we know — like you saw — can go coast to coast. Right? Who we know can make you know 15, 16 footers. You need to get back to that.’”

Edwards grabbed 14.2 percent of UConn’s misses when she was on the floor in 2020-21 — a nearly identical offensive rebounding rate as Griffin. If those two players can just get back to the level they were at last season, combined with slight improvement from Nelson-Ododa, Juhász and the rest of the squad, the Huskies’ offensive rebound troubles won’t be around very long.

UConn will have a great opportunity to begin the turnaround on Friday at Seton Hall. The Pirates’ total rebounding rate (percent of rebounds rebounded) is just 46.5 percent, putting in the bottom quarter of the nation. They also only have two players in the rotation taller than 6-foot-1, so the trio of Nelson-Ododa, Juhász and Edwards should have a significant size advantage.

As Auriemma said after the loss to South Carolina, rebounding is always fixable. The solution is simple. Now, it’s simply a matter of better execution.

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