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Can this IU basketball team shoot the rock? There are signs of life

Indiana fans watched with horror as brick after brick clanged off the rim in Mike Woodson’s debut against Eastern Michigan on Nov. 9.

Here. We. Go. Again.

The Hoosiers made just 4-of-24 attempts from behind the 3-point arc in that contest, including two of their last 22.

Poor 3-point shooting has plagued Indiana since the 2016-17 season when they made 38 percent of their attempts, good for 48th nationally.  Since that season IU’s poor 3-point shooting became a constant that became an albatross around Archie Miller’s neck.  His teams never shot better than 32.6 percent from long range, and never finished better than No. 204 nationally.

  • 2017-18:  32.2 percent (No. 307)
  • 2018-19:  31.2 percent (No. 311)
  • 2019-20:  32.6 percent (No. 204)
  • 2020-21:  32.4 percent (No. 236)

After that four-year performance, Indiana went to the transfer portal with a primary purpose of adding perimeter shooting.  Miller and assistant coach Kenya Hunter brought Parker Stewart in last December, and Mike Woodson landed Miller Kopp in April.

The 3-point shot is an integral part of what Woodson ultimately wants to build at IU — a free flowing up-tempo offensive system with good-spacing and shooters in at least four spots on the floor.  Already his Hoosiers are putting up more attempts from behind-the-arc this year, 19.8, than the two years prior, 18.1 and 16.9.  That part was to be expected.  But better results?

Before the season, Woodson wasn’t sure what he had.  But he knew he didn’t have some of the luxuries he grew accustomed to in the NBA.

“When I was with the Knicks you couldn’t double team anywhere on the floor because I had shooters all over the place,” Woodson said at Big Ten media day.

“No our team is not at that point right now you know, if any college team could build a team where you got four out of the five guys that can make the long ball then you become really dangerous but we’re not at that point.”

After that 4-for-24 start it appeared Woodson’s Hoosiers were nowhere near that point, but they have improved since.

In the four succeeding games IU has made 30-for-75 from beyond the arc, good for 40 percent.  If they could sustain that rate over a season it would be Indiana’s best shooting from deep since the 2015-16 Big Ten title squad.  Already the Hoosiers have had 11 players make a 3-pointer, more than any of the last four teams.  So there is depth on the roster when it comes to potential shot makers.

It’s all enough to make Woodson sound a bit more optimistic.

“I think we’re starting to shoot the ball a little bit better,” he said on Tuesday night.

But there are some concerning details in the numbers too.

Only one player with at least two attempts per game is making above 33.3 percent of his threes.  Fortunately that is Indiana’s top shooter from deep with that many attempts per game, Stewart (10-of-21, 47.6 percent).  The other three players with two attempts or more a game are Kopp who has made just 5-of-16 (31.3 percent), Tamar Bates who has made 4-of-12 (33.3 percent), and Rob Phinisee, 2-of-9 (22.2 percent).

Kopp has made 5-of-13 (38.4 percent) over the last four games however, giving IU a potent combo in the starting lineup along with Stewart.  Although he isn’t shooting a high volume, Xavier Johnson has been a pleasant surprise making 3-of-6 attempts for 50 percent.  And Anthony Leal may just have the best looking shot mechanics on the team, and he has made 3-of-5 for 60 percent.

While no one, including Woodson, thought this would be a great shooting team, there was hope that perhaps there might be enough respectable shooters on the roster to keep defenses honest and the floor spaced.

These Hoosiers aren’t Woodson’s Knicks, but at least that looks like it has a chance.

2021-22 3-POINT SHOOTING BY ATTEMPTS

  • Parker Stewart, 10-21, 47.6%
  • Miller Kopp, 5-16, 31.3%
  • Tamar Bates, 4-12, 33.3%
  • Rob Phinisee, 2-9, 22.2%
  • Jordan Geronimo, 2-8, 25%
  • Race Thompson, 1-8, 12.5%
  • Khristian Lander, 28.6%
  • Xavier Johnson, 3-6, 50%
  • Anthony Leal, 3-5, 60%
  • Trey Galloway, 1-4, 25%
  • Nathan Childress, 1-1, 100%
  • TEAM OVERALL:  34-99, 34.3 percent (No. 134)

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