Clang! Free throws just not falling
By Jim Masilak
December 3, 2006
The University of Memphis men's basketball team makes more free throws than it misses.
Barely, perhaps, but that's about the best thing that can be said at this point about the Tigers' accuracy, or
lack thereof, from the foul line.
The Tigers entered Saturday's game against Manhattan at FedExForum misfiring at a miserable 59.3-percent clip from 15 feet -- bad enough to rank 303rd in the country.
And things only got worse during a lackluster 77-59 victory over the Jaspers.
Missing short, long, left and right, the 14th-ranked Tigers (5-1) hit just 17-of-32 free-throw attempts (53.1 percent). Eight players missed at least one foul shot, and only sophomore forward Robert Dozier, who was 5-for-6, managed to hit more than two-thirds of his attempts.
"Our free-throw shooting woes, or whatever, I don't know what it is. I don't have an answer for it," sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "We're shooting 50 percent as a team and that's terrible."
Asked if the Tigers might prefer the option of taking the ball out of bounds after being fouled, rather than go to the line, Dozier chuckled but then turned serious.
"We can't be a great team and miss free throws like we do," he said. "We've got to start knocking them down in order to seal games."
The Tigers have never shot free throws particularly well during coach John Calipari's six-plus seasons in Memphis. Their shooting in dead-ball situations peaked at 68.4 percent during the 2004-05 season and reached its nadir in '00-01, his first year in charge, when they managed to make just 63.5 percent of their attempts.
This year, however, has seen their free-throw shooting reach a new low. By missing 74 foul shots through the first six games -- their percentage fell to 58.2 after Saturday's victory -- the Tigers are leaving an average of 12.3 points on the floor each time out.
The U of M's opponents, in contrast, are making a healthy 76.4 percent of their free throws.
While Calipari expressed frustration with his team's waywardness, he remains confident things will get better.
"You've got guys who want to be professional, but they go to the free-throw line and barely hit rim. When you get to the line, you've got to make free throws," Calipari said. "We've got good 3-point shooters, and we've got good free-throw shooters. Hopefully, in the games we need to make 3-pointers and free throws, we do."
The Tigers have found ways to fit more free-throw shooting into their practices, but assistant coach Derek Kellogg said it's incumbent on the players to work on that aspect of the game.
"I don't think it's anything we're too concerned about," he said, noting that the Tigers generally improve as the season wears on. "We have been working on it in practice some. Whenever we take a break, instead of just going over to get water, we shoot some free throws.
"We also want the guys to make a conscious effort to get in the gym more and work on their shooting if they're struggling, whether it's free throws, mid-range jumpers or 3-pointers. Free-throw shooting is something you can work on just by going to the gym."
Kellogg also stressed the importance of backcourt players converting on their attempts.
On Saturday, guards Andre Allen, Antonio Anderson, Jeremy Hunt, Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack went a combined 6-for-16 from the line.
Anderson came into the game as the Tigers' leading free-throw shooter at 76.2 percent and was one of just three players hitting more than 60 percent of his attempts. But he uncharacteristically missed both shots following a technical foul in the second half to underline the U of M's woes.
"Luckily it hasn't cost us yet," Kellogg said, "but there are gonna be some close games when we're gonna need to knock them down."