Guards hitting rebounding goals

Guards hitting rebounding goals

Junior guard Mikayla Bailey dribbles the ball against Penn State at Williams Arena on Jan. 28.

Holly Peterson, Daily File Photo

Junior guard Mikayla Bailey dribbles the ball against Penn State at Williams Arena on Jan. 28.

Kaitlin Merkel

Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings issued a challenge to her guards before the start of the season.
 
She asked her starters to average six rebounds per game, even though no guard had more than five per game last season.
 
“[Rebounding will] be a constant focus of our team. We have to be committed to it. It’s something that we have to take to heart and really make a priority every single game,” Stollings said on media day on Nov. 5. “It’s not going to waver from the beginning to the end [of the season].”
 
Eight games in, the Gophers have met Stollings’ demands. Two of the team’s starting guards are averaging more than six rebounds per game, and a third sits at 5.9.
 
Minnesota has outrebounded opponents 44.9 to 39.4 on average, a margin that ranks fifth in the Big Ten.
 
“I think we’ve had some very solid rebounding performances,” Stollings said. “The only places where we’ve struggled are in our losses. … [Rebounding will] continue to be key, especially from our guards.”
 
The Gophers are 5-0 in games of which they have out-rebounded opponents, and also won on Saturday when Memphis grabbed one more board than Minnesota. 
 
The team was out-rebounded in both of its losses against Auburn and Duke. The two teams had a size advantage over the Gophers, starting three players taller than 6 feet tall while Minnesota started two in each game.
 
“We’re shorter, but we just have to use our versatility … and quickness to our advantage to anticipate where rebounds are going to go,” senior guard Shayne Mullaney said. 
 
Six of the Gophers’ seven double-doubles this season have come from players listed as guards. Two of the regular starting guards, redshirt senior Rachel Banham and Mullaney, lead the team in rebounds per game with 7 and 6.4, respectively.
 
Banham, named Big Ten player of the week on Monday, ranks 10th in the conference in rebounding. She is the highest-ranked guard in that category.
 
Sophomore guard Carlie Wagner is just below Stollings’ preferred mark at 5.9 per game, and senior guard Mikayla Bailey is not far behind with 5.4 rebounds per game.
 
The team’s guards will continue to focus on their rebounding goals as the team wraps up its non-conference schedule.
 
“It’s definitely our focus in practice every day. Coach [Stollings] emphasizes that guards need to rebound as much as possible,” Bailey said. “I think we’re getting better every day in practice when we do it, and we hold each other accountable.”
 
 
Emily Nicole Polglaze contributed to this report.