Ignoring foul shooting and rebounding, two basic basketball skills, are the reasons many teams lose games.
This was evident when the eighth-seeded Connecticut Huskies won their fourth national championship in NCAA Division I basketball by defeating the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats last week.
Kentucky’s freshmen seven took advantage of their size to beat their opponents in five tourney games by averaging 16.2 points per game from offensive rebounds and put-backs with 43 percent of their field-goal attempts coming after an offensive rebound, heading into the final against Connecticut.
In their win over Wisconsin, the Wildcats scored 16 points on the offensive boards and won this game by just one point, 74-73.
However, against Connecticut, lack of scoring from offensive rebounding and poor foul shooting were key factors in the loss.
The Huskies limited the Wildcats to just five points on the offensive boards as Kentucky had only two scores on 10 offensive rebounds. They limited Julius Randle to just one offensive rebound and the Wildcats had only seven offensive boards until the end of the game when they got three offensive boards in a row as they wildly attempted 3-point shots in the last 10 seconds of the game.
Poor foul shooting also plagued Kentucky as the Wildcats made just 13 for 24 at the foul line and Connecticut shot a perfect 10 for 10. Kentucky shot just 68.5 percent from the foul line for the season and Connecticut shot 79.4 percent. Kentucky ranked 225th and Connecticut ranked fourth of 351 Division I teams in four shooting.
In the tournament,the Huskies shot 88 percent (101 of 115) in an amazing demonstration of concentration and skill.
Kentucky could have been beaten by any of their five other opponents if their opponents had boxed out correctly as the Wildcats just hammered all five teams on the offensive boards. In fact, their best offense was shoot from the perimeter or drive and shoot from the paint and then go get the offensive rebound.
In today’s basketball, at all levels, the skill of boxing out on the defensive boards is ignored. Players rely on their athletic jumping skills, not their boxing out skills. To box out successfully players must understand that the only time they should not see the basketball when playing defense is when the ball is in the air on a shot.
As soon as the ball is in the air on a shot, the defenders should not turn immediately to wait for the rebound, they should find their man and move toward them until they are just a foot or so away from them. They then should look them in the eyes and wait for their offensive rebounder to make their move to the boards and then should box them out.
This is an effective technique to keep their opponents off the offensive boards and to stop easy put-backs or dunks. This boxing out technique is not taught by many coaches at any level of basketball. Connecticut did a better job of this than any other team that I watched during the entire tournament.
Foul shooting, which I have emphasized in the past, is a basic fundamental. Coaches need to work on this much more if their team cannot shoot at least 75 percent from the line in college.
Many games are either won or lost at the foul line as shown in Connecticut’s title win.