Rebounds have helped Air Force to its surprising start in the Mountain West

By Brent Briggeman Updated: January 7, 2014 at 10:11 pm • Published: January 7, 2014 | 9:20 pm 0

The importance of rebounding is easy to explain through mathematics. More possessions for your team and less for the opponent obviously translate to more opportunities for points.

To Air Force's Kamryn Williams, however, there's another part to that equation.

"I don't want to get punked," said Williams, the Falcons' leader with 6.8 rebounds per game. "Nobody wants to get punked. Being undersized, that's what we have been in the past. We were beat around, badgered, beat up and it's really demotivating to get pushed around like that. This year we're not having that."

The statistics certainly back that up, as Air Force has outrebounded its past six opponents.

That no doubt played a factor in helping the team to a surprising 2-0 start to the Mountain West season as it outrebounded and defeated Utah State and UNLV.

Rebounding has historically been a problem for the Falcons, and nowhere was that more apparent than last year at Fresno State. In a 56-41 victory, the Bulldogs outrebounded Air Force 43-26 and parlayed that into a 30-14 advantage on points in the paint.

If the past two games were any indication, the Falcons return to Fresno on Wednesday may not play out like that.

With Williams, Justin Hammonds, DeLovell Earls and Marek Olesinski, the Falcons have an arsenal of strong or wiry-framed athletes whose top goal is to take possession.

"I just feel like we're getting after it a little more," Williams said. "It means a little more to us. We are always undersized, but this year it means a little more to us to get those loose balls, those 50/50 balls, those rebounds, because we know those are the keys to the game and that's why we've been losing in the past."

At UNLV on Saturday, the Falcons took an offensive possession to the end of the shot clock, then secured an offensive rebound after a miss. A few seconds later a player was open cutting to the basket. Opponents struggle to contend with Air Force's motion for 35 seconds; a few offensive boards would add to that time and make it even tougher.

"We tell our guys if we can rebound and we can limit our turnovers, then we can be in it to win it at the end," coach Dave Pilipovich said.

That mentality is why Williams looks first to the rebound column whenever he sees a stat sheet. He has seen what those boards can do and he wants it to continue.

"We got a taste of that blood," he said. "Now we're hungry. We're going after it."

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