Sunday evening when James Madison travels over the mountains into Charlottesville to take on the reigning NCAA champion Virginia Cavaliers, you can expect plenty of missed shots.
And if Wednesday night was any indication, guards on both teams will collect more than their share of the rebounds on those shots.
JMU successfully pushed the pace in its season-opening win against Charlotte, but in a game with 71 possessions, even a solid 49 percent from the field meant 30 misses for the Dukes. Virginia also opened its season Wednesday with a trip to Syracuse, where the Cavs held the Orange to less than 24 percent shooting.
Whichever team imprints its own style on the game, there are going to be balls coming off the rims, and it’s not necessarily a surprise both squads outrebounded their opponents opening night. But JMU managed to do it with its leading returning rebounder, Dwight Wilson, on the bench with a high ankle sprain.
“Obviously after (Wilson) goes down, Matt’s minutes get extended, Deshon’s minutes get extended,” Dukes coach Louis Rowe said. “We put in the work. We’ve battled through adversity before.”
The result for JMU was career-high rebound totals for two of its starting guards. Junior Matt Lewis grabbed 13 boards to go along with his 22 points, both game highs. Sophomore point guard Deshon Parker had seven rebounds and 17 points, both career highs.
“I knew I had to come in and chip in with Dwight being out because we were kind of undersized,” Lewis said. “But I didn’t even know I had 13 rebounds until after the game. I just attacked the boards and tried to get any rebound I could.”
Sending guards to the glass was something of a necessity for the Dukes, who switched to a 2-3 zone defense early in the game and as the lineup got smaller with Wilson out.
But at 6-5 and 6-4, respectively, Lewis and Parker aren’t exactly small guards. Not like the point guard they will face on Sunday. Virginia sophomore Kihei Clark, all 5-9, 163 pounds of him, collected 11 rebounds in a double-double performance for the Cavaliers on Wednesday.
“I don’t know what that little dude was doing behind us getting all those rebounds,” Virginia’s Mamade Diakite told The Virginian-Pilot in Syracuse after the game. “But he definitely did a great job.”
Diakite, a potential All-ACC power forward and a hero of last year’s title run, will also pose a challenge for the Dukes on the backboards. But don’t be surprised if the relatively “little dudes” once again have a huge impact on that part of the game.