Problems always emerge for a basketball team when a player gets hurt or leaves the team.
When sophomore guard Marlyn Bryant was lost for the season, South Florida’s men’s basketball team lost 27 minutes a game, 7.1 points a game and 4.9 rebounds a game.
The Bulls felt the loss of Bryant Tuesday night in a 74-65 win against Southern Miss when the Golden Eagles won the fight for rebounds 46-33.
“We were just in the wrong spots at the wrong time,” senior center Will McDonald said. “All of the rebounds went their way. Personally, myself and the other big men just couldn’t get to the glass like we usually do.”
McDonald usually leads the charge of Bulls to the glass, with a team-high 7.6 rebounds a game.
However, against Southern Miss, McDonald grabbed only three (rebounds). In the game against the Golden Eagles, the Bulls reduced the size of their lineup by playing 5-foot-10 Brian Swift and 6-foot-1 Reggie Kohn at the same time, with both players on the court for 37 minutes.
Both guards being on the floor at the same time moves Jimmy Baxter to the small forward spot, keeps Terrence Leather at the power forward position.
Baxter posted 10 rebounds Tuesday night and averages 4.5 a game. Leather has 6.4 rebounds a game and is totaling 89 this season.
Since Bryant’s injury, Leather has been playing the small forward position and Baxter the shooing guard position.
“They play pretty well together, but right now Terrence is playing well at the three spot (small forward),” Baxter said. “I should have been rebounding the ball a lot, but I have to make a real conscious effort now.”
As the team gets deeper into its Conference USA schedule (they are currently 8-6 overall and 1-2 in conference), Baxter will need to supply more rebounding to the Bulls’ interior.
“Jimmy can rebound when he wants,” McDonald said. “He jumps 7-foot-4, so he can rebound whenever he puts his mind to it.
“Jimmy and Terrence are a big part of rebounding stats.”
If Swift and Kohn continue to be on the court at the same time, then Leather will remain at the small forward spot and freshman Yusuf Baker will be called on to start at power forward.
Baker has 38 rebounds for an average of 2.7 in 8.4 minutes a game, and will now be asked to step up in Bryant’s absence.
“I think I can contribute to the rebounding by pursuing the rebound,” Baker said. “I just feel like as the ball goes up, I can get it.
“Even though the lineup is smaller, that gives me more opportunity to rebound the ball.”
As the Bulls travel to Memphis Saturday, they will be challenged with another rebounding fight going up against 6-foot-9 forward Chris Massie and 7-foot center Earl Barron.
Massie has 66 total rebounds for 11 a game and leads the Tigers with 19.5 points a game.
Barron holds down the middle for the Tigers, grabbing 4.5 boards a game.
“With Massie and Barron, we have to (rebound),” McDonald said. “Massie is a pretty strong guy, so we have to work hard on rebounding.”