Glass work has been surprising strength for CU Buffs men’s basketball – The Denver Post

Jabari Walker left behind a sizeable hole on the glass. The rebounding void left behind by Evan Battey wasn’t as large, yet still was significant.

The Colorado men’s basketball team also has experienced less than the desired returns from the top returning rebounder from last season. Yet as CU heads into the final six games of the regular season, a run that begins Saturday at Utah (8 p.m. MT, FS1), the Buffs have been one of the most productive rebounding teams in the Pac-12 Conference.

Of course, the rebounding efficiency hasn’t always equated to victories. The turnovers that have led to an inefficient offense, plus too many close games CU hasn’t been able to close, have kept the Buffs in the middle of the pack in the Pac-12.

Still, a perceived preseason weakness has become a team strength.

“We don’t have that one really big, strong guy that just gets all the rebounds,” CU forward Tristan da Silva said. “So it’s a team effort for us, collectively. Every time down the court we just rebound as a whole gang. I feel like that really helps us. We know we can guard. For us, it’s more a matter of finishing our possessions. And that means finishing with rebounds. Every time we manage that as a team, we do well.”

The Buffs begin this week ranked second in the Pac-12 overall (plus-4.9) and in league games (plus-4.3) in average rebounding margin. Colorado (14-11, 6-8 Pac-12) has been outrebounded just five times this season, including twice in Pac-12 play (minus-13 at California, minus-4 at Oregon). CU was outrebounded just three times in nonconference play, with two of those occurring by just one rebound (UC Riverside, Boise State). CU also was outrebounded at home by Yale.

Playing their first game on Sunday against Stanford without leading rebounder J’Vonne Hadley following a season-ending finger injury, the Buffs dominated the Cardinal on the glass, posting their fourth-best margin of the season at plus-14.

While Nique Clifford, CU’s second-leading rebounder for most of last year before being overtaken by Battey down the stretch, has struggled to repeat last year’s performance on the glass, others have picked up the slack. Hadley was averaging 6.1 per game before his injury. Da Silva is up to 5.1 per game after averaging 3.5 a year ago. Luke O’Brien is averaging 4.5 per game after averaging 2.8 last year. Lawson Lovering, who still has a higher ceiling of potential on the glass, is averaging 4.5 per game after averaging just 1.9 in 18 games last year.

KJ Simpson has pushed his rebounding average from 2.5 last year to 4.2 this year. Three rotation players not in the mix last year — Javon Ruffin, Ethan Wright and Jalen Gabbidon — have combined to average 5.1 boards per game.

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“It’s totally a collective effort, without a doubt,” CU associate head coach Mike Rohn said. “We knew that was one thing that we were losing a lot of. Coach (Tad Boyle) challenged them at the beginning of the year they’d have to collectively rebound. We’re boxing out really good. Our defensive rebounding percentage is something we look at really close game-to-game, and we’re about at 75%. That’s pretty good. We’d like to be at 75% or 80, but 75 is pretty good. That means you’re getting a big percentage of your defensive rebounds.”

CU resumed practice on Wednesday after pair of off days with Rohn running the show, as Boyle traveled to Arizona to watch prized 2023 signee Cody Williams play. Like his boss, Rohn believes the Buffs still have a late-season run in them, even if they have to continue that rebounding efficiency without Hadley.

“I think it’s just our mindset. At this time of the year, if you have the right mindset and continue to come every day, get better every day, because February is a grind,” Rohn said. “It’s hard to score and teams defensively are so good. You’ve just got to play through that, and this group is resilient.”

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