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Indiana State University

January 10, 2014

Arc madness

Indiana State’s 3-point shooting has dramatically improved this season

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State’s men’s basketball team had a successful 2013 season in many ways, but there was one failing that stuck out like a sore thumb — the Sycamores’ sub-par 3-point shooting.

ISU shot 29.1 percent from beyond the arc last season which ranked them at a lowly 252nd spot in the national rankings by season’s end.

“I think last year that really hurt us. Our field goal percentage, especially our 3-point shooting percentage, wasn’t very good. We were a better shooting team than our stats showed last year,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.

The Sycamores have taken to proving Lansing right with a vengeance so far in the 2013-14 season.

ISU’s 3-point improvement has been startling and has played a large role in ISU’s 12-3 record. The Sycamores are currently making 41.7 percent of its 3-point shots.

How dramatic have the Sycamores improved? After floating in the 200s in 2013, ISU is currently ranked eighth in the nation in 3-point percentage. ISU has been in the top 10 for the entire season. In overall field goal percentage, ISU (49.3 percent) is ranked 16th in the country.

Eight of the nine returning Sycamores have improved their 3-point shooting with some making a vast improvement. Khristian Smith has more than doubled his percentage as he’s gone from 24 percent to 56 percent. Manny Arop (17 percentage point improvement), Justin Gant (nine) and Dawon Cummings (nine) have also taken a significant leap forward.

Players and coaches alike cited an emphasis on improving the Sycamores’ shooting percentage in the off-season. All players were instructed to get more shots up. It’s a cliché, all teams want players to get more shots up, but ISU took it seriously.

“We give three awards for the three guys that take the most shots between the time the season ends and when the next one starts. We had a lot guys put up a lot of guys putting up shots. It’s about repetition,” Lansing said.

Time is devoted to shooting in practice and that also helps.

“Our coaches do such a great job of giving us shooting time. We’ll do a drill, then we’ll get 10 minutes to get shots. We do that about three times a practice,” Arop said.

Mechanics for some players were tweaked. The advice given to Arop — who needed more lift on his release — during the offseason was relentless.

“It was small tweaks, it wasn’t major, but coach Lou [Gudino] was on me about it. Even when I was back in Canada, he’d call me twice a week,” Arop said. “He told me to make sure the form is right and don’t worry about whether the shots are falling now. Just get the technique right. I think we’re seeing the work we did in the summer translate into the games.”

ISU’s improvement is more than just a function of individual players improving their shots. It’s also part-and-parcel with crisper execution of the Sycamores’ motion offense.

By design, players have the freedom to leak out to the 3-point line. It has a dual effect on the offense. It creates space for penetrators to drive, it gives penetrators an open man to pass to if need be. When the shots fall, it gives the opposing defense one more thing to worry about defensively.

When ISU is making 41.7 percent of its 3-point attempts and has seven players converting at least 30 percent of their attempts? Clearly, it makes ISU’s dangerous and what comes with it is the confidence to make more.

“As long as you stay confident and take good shots, it’s going to continue to grow,” Gant said.

n Bradley comes to Hulman Center today — ISU (12-3, 3-0) begins a two-game homestand as Bradley visits. Tipoff is 1 p.m. today.

The Braves have not lived up to preseason expectation which penned them as a mid-pack Missouri Valley Conference team. The Braves have lost 10 of their last 12 games. A Jan. 4 home win against Drake broke a seven-game losing streak.

Bradley (6-10, 1-2) has had difficulty finding a rotation that suits it. The Braves have used eight different starting lineups, including five different starting five’s in the last six games.

Still, the Braves have plenty of players to worry the Sycamores. Senior guard Walt Lemon Jr. (16.8) is an extremely quick penetrator who can score in bunches. Forward Tyshon Pickett (12.4) and sophomore guard Omari Grier (11.8) can also fill it up.

The Braves’ defensive style can also cause headaches. Bradley loves to jump passing lanes, force turnovers, and score in transition.

All of the above has the Sycamores concerned and they have no intention of taking a team lightly on its home floor.

“We’ve paid no attention to some of their struggles. They’re as athletic and talented as anyone in the league. You go through ruts as a team. We’ve done it. I have no doubt that they’ll be ready to go when they come in here,” Lansing said.

Saturday’s game will be a White Out promotion. Fans are encouraged to wear white.

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