TUSCALOOSA — A routine Monday teleconference turned awkward.
Asked whether Daniel Giddens’ inactivity in Saturday’s 68-66 loss to Texas A&M was due to an injury or coach’s decision, Alabama coach Avery Johnson offered a quick retort.
“No injury,” he said, inviting 10 seconds of silence between his answer and the end of his allotted teleconference time.
Giddens’ absence, especially against Texas A&M, is puzzling on the surface. The Aggies possess one of the conference’s top frontcourts, headlined by 6-foot-10 center Tyler Davis and 6-11 Robert Williams who, on Tuesday, was named the league’s co-Defensive Player of the Year.
Giddens stands 6-11 and weighs 247 pounds. His presence alongside 6-9 Donta Hall would, ostensibly, be welcome against such a large opponent.
But Giddens has been riddled with inconsistency, the byproduct of incessant foul trouble, throughout an underwhelming sophomore season, which came to a head Saturday — his first “DNP”
Instead, Johnson employed a frontcourt of Donta Hall and two true freshmen — Galin Smith and Alex Reese — while Giddens rode the pine.
Johnson’s message? Rebound.
“Any of our big guys, you have to be able to rebound,” Johnson said Tuesday, without mentioning Giddens by name. “Whatever it is, if one of our big guys is getting a rebound every couple of minutes, three or four minutes, they can play. If they’re getting one every 10 minutes, it’s not good. Everyone has a job to do. Our big guys have to rebound. We can’t have any of our big guys playing 20 straight minutes without a rebound, however those minutes are divided up.”
In the nine games preceding Saturday, Giddens grabbed 18 rebounds in 105 minutes. Five of those nine games ended with either one or zero rebounds for the Ohio State transfer who began the season as a starter.
In 13.6 minutes a game, Giddens averages 2.9 rebounds. Reese averages 2.9 boards in two less minutes a game. Smith, at 11 minutes a game, pulls down 1.9.
Saturday, Reese and Smith combined for just eight rebounds in Giddens’ absence.
“They did pretty good, actually,” said Hall, who added six boards of his own. “Hidden-wise, rebounding-wise, size-wise, I felt like they came out and gave us a little spark at a couple times that game.”
Thursday, the two teams meet again to open the SEC tournament. Whether Giddens is available to play is unclear.
What is clear is Johnson’s disdain for his team’s rebounding shortcomings. Both the coach and Hall referenced the 36 offensive rebounds Texas A&M grabbed against the Tide in its two previous games. Being out-rebounded in five of its last six games isn’t sitting well, either.
“Going into the SEC tournament we just have to go work hard and work on doing what we have to do,” Hall said, “crashing the glass and getting rebounds, offensive and defensive rebounds.”