You can’t make the shots you don’t take.

That has been the philosophy the Wolverines’ defense has followed while holding its opponents to just 56.9 points per game this season (third in the Big Ten).

The reason? Rebounding.

The Wolverines allow a paltry 28.6 rebounds per game, good for first in the conference in rebounding defense. Not surprisingly, Michigan is near the top of the list – just behind Michigan State and Indiana – in field goal attempts allowed per game.

“Being a good defensive team, you’re going to have to keep teams from getting second chances,” senior Brent Petway said. “Anytime you give somebody more chances, they’re going to have more opportunities to score.”

The commitment to rebounding and defense is an attitude preached by Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, who knows his team can consistently control the effort it brings to crash the boards.

“We’re very pleased with (our rebounding),” Amaker said. “I think it’s a function of our defense, first of all, and I think it’s a function of our kids being able to block out very well. That’s one of the things that we’ve harped on a great deal with our team.”

When Michigan’s big men talk about the team’s approach to rebounding, it’s clear Amaker is getting through. They understand the importance of every possession and are willing to concentrate on rebounding every time down the floor.

This commitment can be as mental as it is physical.

“It’s just our goal as a team to be one of the best rebounding teams in the Big Ten,” Petway said. “You got to have that mindset, every time a shot goes up, you got to go box out.”

The funny thing about this Michigan team is that it lacks that one dominant rebounder who can be counted on to snatch nearly 10 boards a game. Senior Courtney Sims leads the team at 6.7 rebounds per contest.

Without one big man controlling the glass, the entire team must buy into the concept of boxing out and getting its hands dirty in the paint.

Petway is just behind Sims at 6.6 rebounds per game, while freshman Ekpe Udoh and senior captain Lester Abram also contribute to the cause (averaging 4.5 and 4.4 rebounds per game, respectively).

It’s not just the big men who help control the glass. Amaker expects his guards to pull their own weight as far as rebounding is concerned, something that isn’t easy for a smaller player.

“It’s tough (to adjust to),” the 6-foot-3 Dion Harris said. “When you know the point guard on the other team is not going in, you have a tendency to just stand out there and watch and wait on everyone else to rebound.

“(Amaker) gets on us in practice every time we don’t help box out weakside – the point guard is supposed to box out weakside. He emphasizes it most to the point guard in trying to help somebody else box out, because nine times out of 10, the point guard for the other team will go to the glass.”

However tedious it may be to box out on each possession, Harris and the Wolverines realize how crucial every rebound can be, especially when it comes to the particular style of basketball that Michigan will continue to see in conference play.

“That’s what guys have to look at,” Harris said. “One play can change a whole game because it’s such a slow, grind it out game in the Big Ten.”

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