LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Arkansas has four players who are at least 6-foot-10, and not one of them is hauling in even five rebounds a game.
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“I’m just at the right place at the right time,” said 6-foot-1 Patrick Beverley, the man stealing all those rebounds from his big teammates down low.
Beverley leads the Razorbacks with 7.1 rebounds per game, an impressive stat for a slightly undersized guard. But that’s not all. In Southeastern Conference games, the sophomore is averaging 11 a game – the top mark in the league entering Tuesday.
“It’s getting to the point right now where we’re all in uncharted territory,” Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. “I was kidding him after the game the other day that he’s hurting some of his frontcourt players. We’ve got good college frontcourt players. He’s hurting their careers. He won’t let them get any rebounds.”
Beverley was the SEC freshman of the year in 2006-07, quickly becoming a crowd favorite because of his energetic demeanor. Beverley did what players his size are supposed to do: He made 39 percent of his 3-point attempts while averaging 13.9 points.
His scoring average is down this season to 12.2 points. Opposing defenses are ready for him, and although he’s still a strong 3-point shooter, Beverley’s overall field goal percentage has fallen to 39 percent.
That’s all been overshadowed by his work on the boards.
“It is hard to come up with another 6-foot, 1-inch, 180-pound double-double guy,” said Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, whose fourth-ranked Volunteers host Arkansas on Wednesday night. “It just speaks to what a special athlete he is, and he plays so hard. He’s such a productive player.”
Beverley had 13 rebounds in a win over Texas-San Antonio in December, but that was an aberration at the time. It was his only game in double figures until the start of conference play.
Then he grabbed 13 rebounds in an overtime win over Alabama on Jan. 13 – despite dislocating his jaw in the middle of the game. He has been held in single digits only once in six games since then, and Arkansas (17-5, 6-2) is on a four-game winning streak heading into the matchup with Tennessee (21-2, 8-1).
Beverley rebounds well because he’s willing to go after missed shots instead of racing down the court for an outlet pass. It helps that Arkansas is holding SEC opponents to 39 percent shooting. That gives Beverley plenty of misses to chase down.
Beverley is also quick to credit the Razorbacks’ big men. Arkansas’ front line is an imposing one that includes 7-footer Steven Hill and 6-10 forwards Darian Townes, Michael Washington and Vincent Hunter. Forward Charles Thomas, who is 6-8, also plays plenty of minutes.
Most of Beverley’s rebounding has been at the defensive end. He is only fourth on the team with 34 offensive rebounds.
“I think my teammates, they do a great job of boxing out the big guys. I know I can’t do that,” Beverley said. “Most of the time, I’m just in the right place at the right time and just kind of picking up the loose change.”
Pelphrey has a slightly different explanation. The intense coach wants his players at full speed on the court, and Beverley has been quick to oblige.
“The kid loves to play, loves to compete. It’s important to him,” Pelphrey said. “I know he’s not got great physical size, but if you crack his chest open, take a look at his heart, it may be 7 feet.”
The question now is how long Beverley can keep this up before opposing guards start crashing the boards with him – or before the giants on his own team get sick of this and assert themselves.
Townes says there are no hard feelings. As long as Arkansas is pulling down rebounds, it doesn’t matter that so many of them are going to one of the smallest players on the court.
“Sometimes I kind of mess with him,” Townes said. “He just laughs it off.”