Inside the Play: Defensive Rebounding

bilde[1]We all know Michigan isn’t the biggest team. I think everyone can see that by watching a game or two – even watching layup lines. But that’s not always a great excuse when it comes to rebounding the ball on the defensive end of the floor. Especially now seeing that the Wolverines are a game out of first place in the Big Ten standings, with the Buckeyes coming to town on Saturday. In Columbus, Ohio State dominated both the paint and the offensive glass. Of all people, Lenzelle Smith, had eight of the 14 offensive rebounds that Michigan gave up, leading to 16 second chance points. At Michigan State it was the same story. So if Michigan wants to take a crack at the Big Ten regular season championship, it must do a better job rebounding the ball and protecting the paint. Let’s look at three defensive rebounding situations in the Ohio State game, focusing on the following:

  1. Defensive Rotations
  2. Locating a Body
  3. Be the HAMMER

Defensive Rebounding: Transition Defense


Turnovers kill you. They put so much pressure on your team to get back quickly, identify a man, and stop an easy basket from happening. Michigan actually does a superb job here of getting back, stopping the ball and matching up.

OSU Clips for Merritt-One004


Trey Burke guarding Buford is not ideal, however, that’s what happens when you turn the ball over. You can’t always pick and choose who you guard. So Novak does an excellent job identifying the mismatch and slides over to help. Tim Hardaway Jr. then takes a quick peek through his peripheral and sees no one coming. But he’s got to actually turn his head and look. He never sees Smith in the corner making a dash to the basket and that’s a recipe for an offensive put back.

OSU Clips for Merritt-One017
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Watch Smith (32) run unopposed directly to the rim.

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As the shot goes up you can see that no one is there to contest and he’ll have the easy put-back…

OSU Clips for Merritt-One046
OSU Clips for Merritt-One054

Turning the ball over puts your defense in a tough situation. But, when it happens, you have to get back, see the entire floor, and make the proper rotations to prevent rim runners from getting easy put backs.

Defensive Rebounding: Double Teams


He’s big. Anyone can see that… So Michigan pretty much has to double him in the post. Just like turning the ball over, double teaming can also put your defense in a tough spot. The entire team must be alert, see the ball, and make rotations. Michigan is in perfect position here and everyone knows it’s going to become a double team.


Smith cuts through the lane and Novak doesn’t follow him. Just like he’s instructed. He sits in the lane and is ready to double when Sullinger turns back to the baseline. Jordan Morgan is playing up on Sullinger’s left shoulder to force him into the double team.

The Hammer

Stu Douglass has to see this a tad bit earlier. Everyone knows it’s a double team. His job here is to help the helper and cover Zack Novak’s man. But in doing this, he must make a hit. Be the hammer. Not the nail! (That’s exactly how the coaches yell it) He has to basically hip check Smith, get into his legs, and drive him out of the lane and away from a potential rebound. Stu fights, however, he doesn’t get a good enough hit on Smith. Smith uses his jumping ability to corral the rebound and put it back in.


Now watch as Douglass makes the hit…




But it’s not genough and Lenzell Smith still manages to grab the offensive rebound.


And provide the easy put-back…


Defensive Rebounding: Zone Defense


So we’ve looked at how turnovers and double teaming can put a lot of pressure on your team when trying to effectively rebound the ball. Well…playing a zone is no different because you don’t have a specific man. Here, Smith attacks the middle and makes Jordan Morgan step up before he launches a pass to Buford in the corner. This creates a scramble.

Merritt OSU Three098
Shot Goes Up

When you’re in a zone, it’s extremely important that you find a man when the shot goes up. Jordan Morgan sees that Trey Burke is matched up with Sullinger and does the right thing. He helps.

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Locate a Body

This isn’t easy by any means. Especially when you play 30-35 minutes a game. It takes extreme focus and a lot of effort. But Tim Hardaway Jr. has to recognize that Jordan Morgan helped and Smith is not boxed out. No hit, leads to no rebound. No rebound, leads to no stop. No stop, leads to two points.

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If Michigan wants to beat Ohio State this weekend, it simply cannot afford to give up 16 second chance points. Period. These are three scenarios where a little bit better execution could make a significant difference despite Michigan’s size and athletic disadvantages against Ohio State.

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  • rlcBlue

    This is great stuff – real education for us fans.

    The second example particularly stings, because OSU is only sending three men to the boards against five Wolverines. It just shows that when you’re dealing with a team as athletic as the Bucknuts, your technique can’t be just okay, it must be rock solid.

    As for the first and third examples – I’m sure Timmy has been shown those plays, repeatedly.

  • guest

    Given THJr height and athleticism he should pull down 5 rebs/g. He also often doesn’t have a tough assignment on D due to Stu often matching up with the premier outside threat. No excuse for THjr not to be in their fighting for Rebs. You can see in the 1st and 3rd clips he has no clue. 

    Great piece btw. Good info for us to read leading up to the game.

    • Yeah I definitely hear ya. From firsthand experience, it’s not the easiest thing to do on the court. Lol.

  • Mattski

    Really good; can’t get enough of these. Am curious whether people know some good ways to learn to WATCH the game? Can think of some approaches myself: watch guard play, or just forwards (etc.) Watch the shape of defense. But are there some good exercises? 

    As an announcer, for example, you probably reach a point where you see the game pretty holistically. But how do you get there?

    These certainly get us closer. . .

    • The analysis really doesn’t come from being an announcer. It simply comes from years and years of playing and going through drills that replicate what the videos show. Every college player knows what it’s like to give up an offensive rebound. Every college player has been through thousands of shell/box out drills.

      If you had a chance to attend one of Michigan’s practices, you’d start to pick up on it rather quickly. In fact, you could simply come to ONE of Coach Beilein’s film sessions and you’d have it.

      • LuckyFan

         I’ve done both a couple of times and the knowledge you gain is a tremendous advantage in watching and enjoying the game. Seeing the team work very hard at practice and then execute during the game is great.