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Friday, January 11, 2008

Allen finds his shooting range

Allen finds his shooting range
Despite misses, confidence never wavered
By Jim Masilak
Friday, January 11, 2008

The next time Andre Allen admits to having a crisis of confidence will be the first, but even the University of Memphis' cocksure senior point guard must have experienced a kernel of doubt over his wayward shooting this season.

Right? Right?

OK, maybe not.

"I'm a ballplayer. You're gonna miss shots and make shots," Allen said following a season-high 13 points in Wednesday's 99-58 victory over East Carolina. "I was missing shots and now I'm making them. I feel the same. I just scored more points. I'm just having fun."

Although long-range shooting is well down the list of Allen's most important responsibilities for the No. 2-ranked Tigers (14-0), there's no doubt that he's most effective when his shot is falling.

And until Wednesday, it wasn't.

Allen, who drew national attention for his clutch 3-point shooting during the 2006 NCAA Tournament, needed a compass to find the basket during the first two months of the current season. He entered Conference USA play shooting a woeful 26.5 percent from the field and an even more dire 21.2 percent (7-for-33) from beyond the arc.

Allen was so ineffective that he played a total of just 16 minutes -- with four points and no assists -- in victories last month over Georgetown and Arizona. His five-minute cameo against the Hoyas was the shortest outing of his three-year career.

After going 1-for-3 from 3-point range in the Tigers' season-opening win over Tennessee-Martin, Allen missed an astonishing 13 3-point tries in a row over his next six-plus games before sinking his second attempt of the night Dec. 15 against Middle Tennessee.

Since then, he has gone 9-for-21 (42.8 percent) from long range. But it wasn't until Wednesday, when he went 4-for-6 from the field and hit three straight second-half 3-pointers, that he was ever really in a groove.

"If we were losing, it would be terrible," Allen said, in his typically irrepressible way, of his early-season struggles. "But we're winning."

Although Allen maintains he has been on an even keel all year, Tigers coach John Calipari has noted an increased effervescence of late. On Wednesday, the coach specifically mentioned that the "big grin on his face" was back.

"Think about it," Calipari said. "He was 2-for-15 to start the season from the 3, and that's maybe from the foul line. Now you're looking at him, and he was better than he was a year ago. He was good last year, and he's better right now."

Allen has accepted a somewhat diminished role as the understudy to standout freshman point guard Derrick Rose. It's a role that might have been further marginalized had fellow point guard Willie Kemp not made such a successful transition to the two. As it is, though, the former Washington star's 14.6 minutes per game are almost six fewer than he got a year ago (20.4).

Not that Allen has let that affect his overall play.

"He's the No. 2 point guard, but he still goes out and plays hard like he's the No. 1 point guard," sophomore forward Shawn Taggart said. "When you're making shots, of course your confidence is gonna go up to another level. But if you're not, you pick it up elsewhere."

As it happens, Allen's assist-to-turnover ratio has never been better. The 5-10, 205-pound, all-action reserve ranks third on the team with 38 assists, but his impressive average of just one turnover per game demonstrates the value he has for the basketball.

"He has the best feel for this offense of anybody on the team," assistant coach John Robic said. "He knows what to look for and when to look for it. He has a really high basketball IQ. He's playing really well right now."

Because Allen is now hitting his shots, defenders can't afford to lay off him on the perimeter and cheat against the drive.

"And he's making layups now, too," Robic said.

When Allen shoots the way he did against the Pirates, junior guard Antonio Anderson said, "it makes us almost impossible to stop."

Allen, for his part, didn't see what all the fuss was about following his first double-digit performance of the season.

"I've always been comfortable because I'm a point guard and I know the offense," he said. "We're all ballplayers. We all know we're gonna get the opportunity to play. You've just got to make the most of your opportunities."

- Jim Masilak: 529-2311

Next for No. 2 Tigers

Opponent: Marshall

When, where: 7 p.m. CST Saturday at Huntington, W.Va.


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