Monday, December 13, 2010

The Terps are not shooting free throws well -- at all

At 7-4, the Terps are a decent basketball team. They don't have any overly impressive wins, but they don't have any horrible losses yet either. Still, their last two losses -- against Temple (neutral floor) and Boston College (at home) -- have hurt, particularly because both were winnable games. And actually, all four of Maryland's losses have been close: They lost by nine to No. 4 Pittsburgh, by four to No. 16 Illinois, by three to Temple, and most recently by four to Boston College.

Unfortunately, Maryland didn't build a strong out-of-conference resume prior to beginning conference play, meaning that they'll have to go on a strong run and finish, at the very least, above .500 in the ACC -- and probably 10-6. And because Maryland is likely to play many more close games, they absolutely must shoot better from the free throw line.

Through the first 11 games -- and remember, Maryland could still turn things around from the line -- the Terps are tied for 279th in the NCAA in free throw shooting with some school named USC Upstate at 63.4 percent. That's right, 279th. That is, um, not good. Believe it or not, in 2003-2004, Maryland actually shot worse than that from the line (62.6%), with such bricklayers as Jamar Smith (47.2%), Nik Caner-Medley (65.7%), D.J. Strawberry (52.6%), and Ekene Ibekwe (51.6%) combining to clank numerous rims.

Currently, the main culprits are Jordan Williams (54.3%), Cliff Tucker (68.4%), Pe'Shon Howard (46.2%), and James Padgett (40%). Williams's poor shooting, though, has contributed the most to the poor team percentage because, with 81 attempts from the line already, he's shot about 30 percent of the team's total free throws (268).

Right now, Williams is averaging 18.5 points and 11.9 rebounds per game -- phenomenal numbers. But if he could improve his free throw percentage just a few points, it'll make the Terps that much better. Or maybe, to take some of the load off of Williams's shoulders, some other guys could step up in late game situations and hit a few shots from the line instead. It's the least they could do.

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