December 7, 2007

This year, Hoya free throws not free

December 7, 2007 - Someone wise in basketball once coined a phrase that has survived the test of time - "Free throws are free". That simple statement conveys the fact charity stripe tries are basically unguarded shot attempts that should translate to additional points for a team, digits that many times are the difference between victory and defeat.

Georgetown, during the previous three years of it's coach, John Thompson III tenure, has been a solid, if unspectacular foul shooting team: Since the first year, 2004-2005, Georgetown has shot 70.4%, 70.6%, and 71.1%, good for 8th, 8th and 6th respectively, in the Big East conference.

Nothing, great, but the numbers were not indicative of a problem.

This season is another story. Completing just 54.9% of their free throw attempts through a campaign that to date has comprised of only six games, the Hoyas rank dead last in their 16 team conference (The Big East expanded from 12 to 16 teams after 2004-2005).

Such a mark is not generally indicative of the fourth ranked team in America, as Georgetown currently is, nor does it bode well for NCAA tournament success, where the margins of victory are even further narrowed due to the event's one and done format.

A brief breakdown of the Hoyas foul shooting does nothing to explain this sudden challenge. The team has never shot better than 64.7% (in the season opener against William and Mary), and performed its worst when facing Fairfield (40.9%). Against major conference programs, G'Town has had similar, uneven, pedestrian at best success, notching 60.7% in the recent win over Alabama, while sinking only 50% when blowing out Michigan.

On average, Thompson's team has shot slightly more than 15 free throws per game, with the high being 28 against Fairfield, and a low mark of four versus Michigan. While the last two consecutive games have seen over 20 free throws attempts being earned by Georgetown (22 and 28 versus Fairfield and Alabama respectively) - which in some ways denotes more aggressive, basket attacking play - a swing of nearly 20 percentage points differentiates the two game's free throw shooting success. What's more, in no game have the Hoyas equaled or bested last season's season charity stripe mark.

For this campaign, only one individual Hoya has a foul shooting percentage the equals 70% (senior guard Jonathan Wallace). Sophomore forward DaJuan Summers is close behind at 66.7%, trailed by backcourt guys Jessie Sapp, a junior, and freshman Chris Wright, who both check in at 60%. Nobody else raises above senior center Roy Hibbert's 55.6% mark. Strangely, freshman swingman Austin Freeman has not attempted much less sank a free throw, despite being seventh on the team in minutes played with a healthy 18.7.

Another stats that leaves heads being scratched is the fact Hibbert, Rivers, Macklin, and Patrick Ewing, Jr. have all shot to date better from the field than the charity stripe (Freeman would be included, if not for being free throw-less).

If anything, the Hoyas have been all over the meter when it comes to foul shooting, but never on the high end.

After the Fairfield game, a clearly perturbed Thompson described his squad's free throw futility as "horrible" (click on links for audio), before stressing the situation "has to be fixed".

The remedy? Assume hard work is on tap for Thompson's charges.

One of them, sophomore guard Jeremiah Rivers suggested in the post-Fairfield presser, the squad would likely engage in extra free throw work during practice. He also revealed a plan to put in additional foul shot workout time upon returning to campus that evening, before jokingly opining fellow sophomores Vernon Macklin and DaJuan Summers should join him.

Whether that occurred or not, it's safe to assume the Hoyas have focused upon foul shooting to a larger degree, with the results being the still undesirable yet improved 60.7% mark against Alabama. It's not great, but it's hopefully a start. With continued work, free throws will possibly soon approach being free again for the Hoyas.


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