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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona’s poor free throw shooting could be costly against Colorado

Much has been made about the Arizona Wildcats basketball team’s free-throw shooting woes — and for good reason.

The most recent example of Arizona’s poor free throw shooting was last weekend when Arizona attempted 54 combined shots from the foul line against California and Stanford and made only 30 of them — a dismal 55.6 percent from the charity stripe.

This season there have even been instances where the Wildcats have shot a higher percentage from the 3-point line than they did from the free throw line.

“It’s … I don’t know,” freshman Nick Johnson said about the team’s free-throws struggles. “I think coach said something like we could have scored 90 points against Cal or 95 — something like that — if we would have made our free throws.”

Instead, just two points decided the California game, and it came down to the final possessions, with Arizona (16-8, 7-4 Pac-12) squeaking out a 78-74 victory.

The free throw shooting got so bad against Stanford that junior Kevin Parrom, who did not make the trip to the Northern California schools because of a foot injury, even tweeted “we need to lock up and make free throws.”

But there have been other games where free throws would have changed the outcome of the game. The last time the Wildcats took on tonight’s opponent, the Colorado Buffaloes (16-7, 8-3), two crucial late misses were the difference. With less than three minutes left to play in the game, both veterans Solomon Hill and Kyle Fogg missed shots that would have given the Wildcats the lead.

“It’s the biggest mismatch in Thursday’s game,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “We’re shooting a lot of free throws per game, so as we get to the line more, it’s even more of a problem … When you get there a lot it decimates you on offense.”

Although important in their own right, free throws will be especially important this weekend for Arizona because the limited number of players Miller will use. With sophomore Jordin Mayes out of the lineup against Colorado and Utah, free points will be essential to securing two home wins.

The Wildcats are shooting 69 percent from the foul line compared to Colorado’s 71 percent. And for Arizona, the free throw misses have come at times where the extra one or two points would have made all the difference in the game.

“If you just do the math and stay with the same number of attempts and make it 72 percent you’d see our points per game and our margin of victory or close loss turning into a win,” Miller said. “We would really be in a good place right now.”

If Miller’s fantasy were true, Arizona would have made about 18 more free throws, which is more than the combined margin of loss for all the Wildcats’ conference losses.

Miller also said the team has been working to make sure Arizona’s free chances don’t go unclaimed. He has used practice techniques such as stopping practice to simulate free throw situations.

“We try to take breaks in practice when you’re breathing hard,” Miller said. “You get the feeling of coming on and off the line.”

Johnson, who will have an increased role with Mayes out of the lineup, said the team has tried to get back to the mental aspect of thinking they can make free throws to put the game away.

“I like to think I’m a good free throw shooter,” said Johnson, who has the fourth-highest free throw percentage on the team. “As of late, haven’t been so much but I’m looking to turn that around.”

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