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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

February 29, 2008 at 6:45 PM

Free throws continue to vex

A few months ago, when Washington’s free throw problems first began to look a little serious, UW coach Lorenzo Romar predicted there was no way the Huskies would finish the season shooting 60 percent or worse.
Friday, he made a frank admission.
“I was wrong,” he said.
Indeed, with just three games guaranteed remaining in the season, the Huskies are shooting 58.5 percent from the free throw line, unlikely to rise much higher. UW is even worse in Pac-10 games, shooting 56.7 percent.
It’s hard to say exactly how some of the close games UW has lost would have turned out had the Huskies made more free throws. But it’s realistic to conclude UW would likely have won two or three more games if it had shot just a little better from the line. Thursday, for instance, UW was just 7-16 at the line in an 82-79 loss at Stanford, losing despite making seven more field goals than the Cardinal.
And being, say, 18-11 overall and 8-8 in conference play would paint a much different color on this season than does UW’s actual record of 15-14 and 6-10.
Most frustrating is that no one knows what to do about it.
Romar reiterated Friday that UW coaches have tried all manner of strategies to improve the team’s free-throw shooting. Players shoot before practice and after practice, and situations are set up during practice to try to create as much of a game-like feel as possible. Romar said free throws during practice are always one-and-ones to try to simulate game pressure.
“As the season has progressed, we’ve done more and more things,” he said. “If you ask our players, to a man they’d tell you we work on free throws all the time, in all kinds of situations.”
UW forward Jon Brockman backed that up, saying “we’ve all shot millions of free throws.”
But like his coaches, Brockman remains perplexed at the problem.
And the unfortunate truth for a player who means so much to this team is that he is as big a part of this problem as anyone. Brockman is shooting just 52.7 percent, having made 89 of 169 attempts, close to a third of UW’s total of 600 attempts. He was 2-5 Thursday in a three-point loss at Stanford.
Brockman called UW’s free throw troubles “mindboggling.”
“You know you can do it because you’ve done it millions of times,” he said. “But there are just so many factors that go into it while you are in a game that can influence how you shoot your free throws.
“I know we are a lott better practice free-throw shooting team than we are in games. Games are obviously a lot different. At times you are a lot more fatigued, there are a lot more people in the stands, obviously. There are different scenarios that way. But I wouldn’t have guessed it either (that UW would shoot as poorly as it has).”
Romar, however, points out that UW tries to simulate situations of fatigue by having the team suddenly stop in the middle of practice to shoot free throws. Nothing has worked, and UW seems destined for its second-worst free throw shooting season ever. The 2000-01 team holds that dubious distinction, making just 57.5 percent of its free throws.
Brockman said hopefully that “slumps don’t last forever.”
Maybe not, but this one has come close.
In a season marked by inconsistency, UW’s free-throw troubles have been remarkably constant. UW hasn’t shot better than 67 percent at the line in any game since hitting 14-20 (70 percent) at LSU on Dec. 29

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