Lady Rebel Posts Dominance On Boards Key To 5-0 Start|
Dec. 2, 2016
LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - By W.G. Ramirez - Special to UNLVRebels.com -
UNLV Lady Rebels coach Kathy Olivier knew her team's strength coming into the season was a dangerous backcourt with plenty of scoring options.
Rohde led the team with 7.8 rebounds per game, while Callaway wasn't too far behind with 7.1. And with both graduated, Olivier was hoping she'd get production from one of two sophomores who saw time behind her departed duo - 6-foot-2 Paris Strawther or 6-1 Jordyn Bell - or redshirt sophomore Katie Powell, a 6-4 transfer from Arkansas who became eligible after sitting out one year.
Through five games, the trio has had a profound effect on the team's interior game, as they're averaging a combined 21.4 rebounds per game.
"I feel like a lot of it just really has to do with most of our team coming back," said Strawther, who leads the team with 8.2 rebounds per game, and is second with 13.6 points per contest. "We have a year of playing with each other under our belts. We mesh well together and are more of a cohesive unit. We knew we lost a lot of rebounds, coach made sure we knew that, and we made sure to make up for that."
And then some.
Strawther said she wasn't satisfied with what she felt was a mediocre freshman campaign, and spent the offseason working on her conditioning, working on her strength and conditioning and most importantly, honing in on her skills on the court.
"I know what I am capable of and wasn't really satisfied with my performance last year at all," said Strawther, who starred at Liberty High School, in Las Vegas, where she was the Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year runner-up in her junior and senior seasons. "Granted I was coming in as a freshman and it was all new to me but that's not an excuse. It made me hungry to get better so I made sure I worked all summer long to better my game as an individual so that I could contribute to the team because the team is what it's about at the end of the day and if I can't help and do my job then I'm a liability not an asset."
She said getting the first couple of games under her belt and realizing her potential has boosted her confidence.
Powell, meanwhile, couldn't wait to step on the floor, after playing cheerleader last season. Practicing with the team, but relegated to sitting in sweats during games had her pumped for this season.
"I worked really hard to stay in shape and get stronger. I've taken all my anger, frustration and emotions from having to sit out, and applied that to all these games we've been playing," said Powell, who is second on the team with 7.8 rebounds per game, while she's contributing with 7.4 points per contest.
"One of our goals was to replace those rebounds, and we worked on that every day in practice. I think our chemistry is much better this year, because we communicate a lot more and I think that's because we spend a lot of time off the court together, not just on it."
Heading into its third week of the 2016-17 campaign, and what will be a huge road test in Hawaii, the Lady Rebels are third in the nation in rebounding margin, as they're out rebounding opponents by 17.6 boards per game. UNLV is also fourth in the country with 50.0 rebounds per game, and its domination on the board has translated into signature wins over Houston, USC and Ole Miss, already.
The Lady Rebels' 21.2 scoring margin is 24th best in the nation, as they're making the most of their second-chance opportunities with 19 offensive rebounds per game, which is good enough for sixth among D-I teams.
"They're all confident, and they're all happy for each other," said Olivier, whose Lady Rebels also grab 31 defensive rebounds per game, which ranks 20th in the country. "So, if one is doing well, there is no jealousy. That says a lot about team basketball."
The ninth-year UNLV coach said she and her coaching staff have always known Strawther and Bell were students of the game, and it would be a matter of time before one or both broke out of their freshman shell, while they've always been aware of Powell's talent and how hungry she was to become eligible.
Olivier said all three bring their own style to the paint - whether it's Strawther's efficiency, Bell's determination, or Powell's diversity - but it's one common tenacity that has makes the trio extremely dominant when any of them are running the frontcourt.
"Paris is just so intelligent and efficient, Jordyn is a grinder and worker and Katie, she knows the game man, and she can be mean in there," Olivier said. "They all put in work during the offseason and they all want to be a part of this. They feel this could be something special."