Ever since Chris Wood arrived on campus almost two years ago, Dave Rice and the coaching staff have been on a mission to get him to embrace playing around the basket. It’s taken a while—Wood has a nice shooting stroke for a big and likes to use it—but it looks like Wood is finally on board with that plan.
Wood’s numbers this season reflect his acceptance of a traditional big-man role. He’s still prone to launching a 3-pointer every now and again, but for the most part he’s stayed around the paint and given the Rebels a much-needed interior presence. He’s averaging 15.0 points per game on 50.0-percent shooting, and he’s been the team’s best rebounder by a huge margin—he’s pulling down 10.0 per game with a rebounding percentage of 16.8 (Goodluck Okonoboh is a distant second at 10.7 percent).
Tuesday’s win over Fresno State was a good example of Wood’s willingness to play in the paint. He used his 6-foot-11 frame to dominate every aspect of the game, as he totaled 27 points, 19 rebounds (nine offensive) and seven blocks. Every time there was a play being made around the basket, he was in the middle of it.
“I know I’m much taller than them, so I had to rebound, be aggressive and stay in the post,” Wood said after the game. “I know I tend to get outside a little bit, but I think I did a good job of staying inside.”
For the season, Wood is shooting 65.4 percent on shots around the rim, which is second on the team behind only Cody Doolin (70.2 percent on way fewer attempts). And if you take a look at his eight field goals against Fresno State, you’ll notice a trend—all of them came within arm’s length of the rim:
1st half, 17:39 remaining
Wood’s approach to this game was on display early, as he got the Rebels on the board by tipping in this Patrick McCaw miss. When Wood’s man challenges McCaw’s shot, Wood slips in behind him for the easy offensive putback:
1st half, 4:52 remaining
Wood gets this bucket by running the floor. He actually pushes the ball up himself before throwing a pass to Jelan Kendrick on the wing. Fresno State isn’t set on defense, and in the confusion, two defenders jump out at Kendrick. That allows him to send an alley-oop right back to Wood, who dives to the rim for the dunk:
2nd half, 17:07 remaining
Wood finishes off his second (but not his last) alley-oop here. Once again, McCaw’s penetration draws the attention of Wood’s defender. When he vacates the rim area, Wood cuts in along the baseline to catch the pass and throw it down:
2nd half, 16:43 remaining
This is a great example of Wood’s mindset against Fresno State. The Bulldogs are undersized up front, and Wood knows this, so he sets up shop in the post and works his way to the middle with two power dribbles. He gets right to the rim, and though he leaves the initial shot short, he gets off the floor quickly with his second jump and is able to dunk the offensive rebound. This is a demoralizing play for the defense:
2nd half, 14:41 remaining
Wood heads back down to the left block for another bucket. This time, he spots McCaw’s defender hedging down to double-team him, so he quickly drop-steps to the baseline, away from the double, and muscles through contact to finish off a nice post move:
2nd half, 15:19 remaining
Wood hustles to get another offensive-rebound dunk here off a Rashad Vaughn miss. He notes his defender leaving him to help on Vaughn’s penetration, and once the defender’s back is turned, Wood crashes to the rim, running in all the way from the 3-point line to get the putback:
2nd half, 4:05 remaining
Hey look, it’s Wood posting up on the left block again! Fresno State stayed in a man-to-man defense all night, and Wood said after the game that he’s more comfortable going up against man because it’s easier to read than zone defenses. That comfort level is obvious here, as he’s free to take his time (good spacing by the Rebels gives him the entire left side to work with) and back his man down before drop-stepping for another easy basket:
2nd half, 3:43 remaining
Wood finishes off his stellar performance by throwing down a vicious fast-break dunk and almost decapitating poor 6-foot-4 Julien Lewis in the process. It’s another nice feed from McCaw, who presses the defender before hitting Wood, who does a good job of running the floor and making himself available:
This game should serve as the Chris Wood blueprint going forward. Out of his eight made field goals, five were dunks, and seven came with both feet in the paint (he only had one foot in the lane on his other bucket). In the postgame press conference, Rice said that some of Wood’s struggles this season have come when opponents have gotten physical with him down low, which is a byproduct of being the focal point of scouting reports. But against Fresno State, Wood seemed to relish contact, going to the rim again and again en route to 17 free-throw attempts.
It speaks to how devastating Wood is when he’s playing close to the rim. Most opponents don’t have the personnel to match up with him, and judging by his commitment to playing inside, it looks like Wood is ready to take full advantage of it.
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