Scoring's up this year, but rebounds are slightly down for the Herd's Dennis Tinnon.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Dennis Tinnon's individual goal was straightforward, if not simple: Lead NCAA Division I in rebounds.
It wasn't an outlandish notion twelve months ago, about the time he yanked down 19 of them against Alabama-Birmingham. That set a still-standing career high, topping the 15 set a month earlier in Syracuse.
Yes, Syracuse. And that game came after 14-rebound efforts against Ohio and Cincinnati, the latter prompting coach Mick Cronin to label his usually physical Bearcats a "pretty" team.
Right out of junior college, Tinnon was such a rebounding machine, opponents looked forward to seeing him in person, to watch how he operates. It's kind of like they knew he was going to get his 10-plus; they just wanted to stop him from getting 10 on the offensive end.
By any measure, the 6-foot-8 native of Green Bay, Wis., had an above-average year. He averaged 10.2 points, shot 55.4 percent from the field and 72.3 percent from the line. He ranked third in Conference USA in the art of rebounding, 22nd nationally.
Alas, he averaged 9.9714 rebounds per game, grabbing 349 in 35 contests -- one stinkin' board short of a double-double average.
But that's nitpicking. He has established himself by any measure, and when he won an NCAA appeal granting him another year of eligibility, opponents were put on notice to expect more rough nights on the boards.
On the other hand, those opponents aren't making life easy for Tinnon, who has yielded the power forward position to Elijah Pittman and taken on small-forward duties. Tinnon, who has taken 20 3-point shots vs. two for all of last season, has a longer trek to the rim at times.
And a lot more opposing bodies in the way.
"Once guys start doing the scouting report, they're all on me," Tinnon said last week. "[At Texas El-Paso], I couldn't get . . . I think I only had three rebounds. Everywhere I turned, those guys were hip-checking me, putting the forearm into my chest or something. It started to get really physical."
Yes, the Miners remembered the pummeling they suffered in Huntington 12 months earlier and dished it back out in a 74-63 win. Against East Carolina last weekend, Tinnon bounced back with 11 points and 12 rebounds - his fifth double-double of the season and the 17th in his 53-game career.
His scoring average has risen to 10.9 points and his rebounding average is up to 9.2, ranking him 41st after Sunday's action. In an upset of sorts, he is second on his own team in offensive boards, trailing Nigel Spikes 64-53.
The latter stat is mostly a product of Tinnon playing the "three." After all, if you see Spikes 15-plus-feet from the basket, he's probably setting a screen.
As a team, the Herd was outrebounded for the seventh time this season in the ECU game, winning for the first time in such a situation. There was a good reason, though - MU defenders were parked at the 3-point line, clamping down on the Pirates' fire-the-cannons attack. Among other things, that led to the strange sight of big man Robert Goff committing a three-shot foul.
That also led to the Pirates getting more rebounds, but the Herd was hardly harmed in the 77-56 laugher. Besides, Tinnon found his way to the ball, as usual.
"I continue to work hard," he said. "And I make sure when a guy puts his forearm on me, I'm still swimming, I'm spinning to try to get that ball."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.