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Rebounding has been problem for Northwestern centers

Northwestern forward Jared Swopshire (12) gets defensive rebound ahead teammate Reggie Hearn (11) Illinois forward Sam McLaur(0) during first half

Northwestern forward Jared Swopshire (12) gets the defensive rebound ahead of teammate Reggie Hearn (11) and Illinois forward Sam McLaurin (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Darrell Hoemann)

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Updated: March 2, 2013 7:14AM

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody knew freshman Alex Olah would start at center this season, with redshirt freshman Mike Turner coming off the bench.

Neither had played in a college game, so Carmody realized growing pains were to be expected, especially
offensively. But what he didn’t anticipate was the lack of rebounding the duo has provided in Big Ten play.

The 7-foot Olah has only five rebounds in the Wildcats’ last four games, and the 6-8 Turner has grabbed only one in 47 minutes spanning four games.

‘‘That is a real concern,’’ Carmody said. ‘‘The only person who’s doing the job is [Jared] Swopshire.’’

Don’t be surprised if the 6-8 Swopshire logs some time at center if Carmody goes to a smaller lineup when NU (12-9 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) visits No. 1 Michigan (19-1, 6-1) on Wednesday at the Crisler Center
(5:30 p.m., BTN, 720-AM). Swopshire has been the Wildcats’ best rebounder. He had 16 in their loss Saturday to Nebraska.

‘‘Definitely,’’ Swopshire said when asked if he could play center. ‘‘If that’s what Coach needs me to do, I can definitely do that.’’

For NU, it’s all about finding ways to score, especially against a team as potent as the Wolverines. The Wildcats’ offense hasn’t been producing as many easy shots, partly because their long-range shooting hasn’t been consistent enough to keep defenses honest.

That’s why Carmody wants to get the ball into the post more often, even if Olah remains a work-in-progress offensively.

‘‘We may have to emphasize throwing the ball down [low],’’ Carmody said. ‘‘When you get the ball down there, you get behind the defense, which is a good thing. It opens up some cuts. Even if your center isn’t scoring, he’s a facilitator. He can help other guys.’’

Olah is working with coaches to improve around the basket, but part of his problem is his conditioning, which only can be bolstered with weight training and better nutrition.

Rebounding has become such a emphasis that Carmody recently told his young centers to forget about getting rebounds themselves and to focus on denying them to opponents.

‘‘I feel like I can contribute more offensively, but I don’t get a chance much,’’ Olah said. ‘‘I’m just doing what Coach wants and going
through the offense. And when I have a chance to score, I try to score.’’

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