Through two games, the men’s basketball team was missing something.
Assistant coach Dan Leibovitz said he knew how the Owls could fix the problem, and cited senior forward Nehemiah Ingram as the answer.
“One word,” Ingram said after a practice last week. “Rebounding.”
Ingram returned to the Owls on Sunday afternoon fresh from a stint with the football team. In his first game back with the basketball team, Ingram was largely a non-factor. Then again, he was not needed much in the Owls’ 73-56 win over Miami.
Though the 6-foot-8 Ingram has zero points and zero rebounds in six minutes against the Hurricanes, the Owls’ lineup will probably need him in the long run. In two Preseason Tip Off games prior to Ingram’s return, coach John Chaney employed a guard-laden rotation, with only one player taller than 6-6 getting extended playing time.
The result was the Owls being outrebounded, 34-22, by an undersized Army team in a season-opening win Nov. 15. Two days later, UCLA tallied 41 boards to the Owls’ 29 in Temple’s 54-47 loss.
Ingram had 21 total rebounds last season. That’s not an overwhelming total, but Ingram got those in only 81 minutes. He said his ability on the court will not be hindered by having played with the football team.
“All my life, I’ve been playing [in the] middle. Four years here, I’ve learned [Chaney’s] way of playing basketball, like his zone and his offensive stuff,” Ingram said. “It’s hard to pick up the little things when you’re away from basketball for a while. But I’ll get it.”
Chaney said earlier this month at Atlantic Ten Conference Media Day that he would rely on “one or two big guys” until Ingram’s return. The 73-year-old coach was referring to scrappy junior forward Dion Dacons (6-6) and freshman center Sergio Olmos (7-0). Together, they had pulled down nine rebounds.
Sophomore forward Wayne Marshall remains sidelined with dizzy spells, so getting Ingram minutes is essential, Leibovitz said at practice last week.
“Hopefully, he’ll be there to bring us some toughness and rebounding inside,” Leibovitz said. “We’ve had Dion in there, but a couple rebounds here or there against UCLA, and who knows? We could win that game.
“It’s too early to say whether he’ll [get a lot of minutes], but Dion’s been playing well. It’s tough to get by with a guy that’s 6-6 in the middle. We just know [Ingram] will be needed for his strength and size.”
Ingram’s ability to just play and forget about the on-court incident against Saint Joseph’s last season is essential, Leibovitz said. Each fan in the first row of UCLA’s student section wore arm slings imitating St. Joe’s forward John Bryant, who suffered a broken arm after a mid-air collision with Ingram last Feb. 22.
“He feels bad about what happened last year against St. Joe’s,” said Leibovitz, who served as the Owls’ coach in the first five games after the incident. When fans make gestures like UCLA’s, “it’s something [Ingram] laughs about now, but he feels awful that it ever happened. It’s something he’s going to have to get around to be successful for us.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.