Nobody in the Big Ten does that better. The 6-8 sophomore averages a conference-leading 13.0 rebounds. Last year he led all Big Ten rebounders with an 8.3 average.
This is not an aberration. Swanigan has always hit the boards as if it was an obsession. He did it while earning Indiana Mr. Basketball honors at Homestead. He did it in travel ball and while helping Team USA win a pair of youth world championships.
This week Swanigan will face the Big Ten’s No. 2 and No. 3 rebounders. On Thursday night, it will be Ohio State’s Trevor Thompson (8.8 rebounds). On Sunday, it will be Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ (9.4).
It is a challenge Swanigan spends zero time thinking about.
“I don’t look at it as me competing against them for rebounds,” he says. “It’s just me going after every single one. It’s a competition with nine other players on the floor. It’s not just the other team. It’s everybody.”
So if the Boilers’ Isaac Haas or Vince Edwards gets in his way, well, don’t.
“I’m trying to get after all of them,” Swanigan says.
Part of his improvement comes in offensive rebounding. He already has 47 offensive boards, just seven fewer than he had all of last season.
“It’s just another way to get more opportunities for your team, more second chances to score,” he says. “You have to go after it every time. I could have done that more last year.
“When you get an offensive rebound, it’s huge. It keeps us in games. It helps us pull away from teams. It wears out the opponent as the game goes on.”
Swanigan thrives on wearing out people. He has four games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. No one else has done that even once this season.
He has even become proficient at getting rebounds with one hand.
“Sometimes you can’t get it with two hands, especially with offensive rebounds, because you’re locked up with a guy,” he says, “but if you can get one hand on it and tip it off the rim a lot of times you’ll get the bounce.
“It’s been an emphasis, and it’s effort. It’s just going. Crash from wherever you are. Just locate the ball.”
Coach Matt Painter says Swanigan has improved his rebounding because he’s improved his body. He’s in better shape and he’s relentless. He doesn’t take plays off, as some players do. Even if it looks like he has no chance to get the rebound, he goes after it while others drift back on defense.
“It’s mindset,” Painter says.
The No. 20 Boilers (12-3 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten) will need a very strong mindset to bounce back from Sunday’s home overtime loss to Minnesota and win at Ohio State (10-4, 0-1). Value City Arena has been a disaster for them. They are just 1-13 there, with the only victory coming by a 60-57 score in 2010. They have lost four straight there by an average of 12.0 points.
The reason, Painter says, is simple.
“They’ve had good teams and good players, and (Thad Matta) is a good coach. They’ve been consistent.”
Ohio State has five players scoring in double figures — Jae’Sean Tate (13.9), JaQuan Lyle (11.9), Marc Loving (11.6), Kam Williams (10.8) and Thompson (10.4). Forward Keita Bates-Diop just misses at 9.7.
“They have lots of versatility,” Painter says. “They’re all interchangeable parts, guys 6-6 to 6-8 who can do a lot of things.
“When you have length like that, it’s a difficult matchup for anybody. At every spot they can make up for mistakes. You have to execute a little better, move them more to get them behind the play.”
Adds Swanigan: “Their length is something you can’t simulate in practice. We have length, but until you play against their length, you don’t really know.”
Thompson ranks among the Big Ten leaders in blocks, averaging 1.9 a game.
“He plays hard,” Swanigan said. “He blocks a lot of shots. It’s more of a backside thing. It’s hard for a guy to block a shot when he’s right there. It usually comes from behind and you can’t see him.”
And then Swanigan turns it back to rebounding.
“If someone tries to block a shot from the backside, it’s an offensive rebound opportunity because it’s hard to box you out and block the shot. It’s hard to do that.”
UP NEXT: Purdue at Ohio State
TIPOFF: 7 p.m., Thursday
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