For the second game in a row, Duke started three towering forwards. All three could be the team’s center on any given night, but this combination has not boded well in the rebounding department for the Blue Devils.

Although Notre Dame outrebounded Duke by a mere two boards, the distribution of rebounds was a cause for concern following the Blue Devils’ first home regular-season loss in 30 games. In the defeat, Duke was led on the glass by graduate student Rebecca Greenwell.

“I’m really proud of Becca rebounding the 10 defensive boards that she got,” Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “That’s really important to this team that she do that, and she did that aggressively and was excellent at it.”

But with Greenwell accounting for almost a third of the team’s rebounding, there was not a lot to go around for the forwards, especially on the defensive end. The Owensboro, Ky., native registered 10 of the 17 rebounds off Notre Dame misses. As a result, the Blue Devil post players were left to only a few on that end of the floor.

The same situation occurred Thursday night against Georgia Tech, as Greenwell finished with eight defensive boards and the rest of the starting forwards could only match that figure. 

In a combined 67 minutes Sunday afternoon, graduate student Bego Faz Davalos, senior Erin Mathias and freshman Jade Williams only brought down a rebound on three occasions. The heights of these three players are 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5, respectively. For all that height, it was the 6-foot-1 guard that led the way, with Mathias taking two rebounds and Davalos grabbing another.

Although the trio finished with eight on the offensive end, finishing stops with defensive rebounds remains a glaring problem. On the year, Mathias, Davalos and Williams combine to register just 6.4 defensive boards a night.

Williams has now started seven games in her young career, but the youth is catching up to her. The Colony, Texas native was on the court for only 15 minutes due to her quick fouling.

“That’s Jade. That’s what she does.... She simply can’t do that. I don’t know what to say. Her fouls were so quick and so aggressive—not that aggressive, but just sort of out of position slightly,” McCallie said. “She’s a special player, and I think she should feel really good about how she can help her team. As you saw at Georgia Tech, I think she’s felt really good about that, but in the same sense, you’ve got to come ready to play every night. That was not the case.”

Last time out, Williams notched a career-high 16 points against the Yellow Jackets. But she couldn’t grab any of Notre Dame’s misses from the bench.

Sophomore Leaonna Odom picked up a lot of that leftover playing time, seeing the floor off the bench for 34 minutes, but she only managed to bring down one defensive rebound off a Notre Dame air ball despite grabbing four of Duke's misses.

The root of the rebounding dilemma may revolve around going back to the basics of rebounding. On some occasions, when Notre Dame missed a shot, the Fighting Irish would still bring the ball down and reset. A prime example of this transpired on the opening possession of the game. 

Notre Dame guard Marina Mabrey missed a 3-pointer long, and the rebound went over the head over Davalos and into her opponent’s hands for one of the Fighting Irish's eight offensive rebounds. On the same play, another three-ball hit the back of the rim and Williams was on the wrong side of her defender. But Greenwell was there to recover the board for her teammates.

The next time down the floor, both Mathias and Davalos closed out on the shooter from near the free-throw line, and the shot clanked off the rim and went toward the Blue Devil bench. Williams did not fully box out her player until the ball was already off the rim for a half-second. In the meantime, Greenwell took four strides to pass both Williams and a Fighting Irish forward to earn her second rebound.

“Very disappointing.... At times, there is some boxing out going on where Becca can slip in there and get it, but she had to work awfully hard to get those 10,” McCallie said. “They weren’t exactly coming to her. It’s not good enough. I mean, what can I say? It's not good enough.”

With overpowering height, Duke’s forwards will need to do a better job of saving Greenwell some steps and increasing their rebounding totals at the same time.

“You have got to rebound the ball, be tougher and get more people involved,” McCallie said. “That’s just the bottom line.”