UW men's basketball: Poor shooting percentage doesn't tell whole story

2011-01-19T02:00:00Z 2011-01-19T22:42:53Z UW men's basketball: Poor shooting percentage doesn't tell whole storyROB SCHULTZ | 608-252-6487 | rschultz@madison.com madison.com

The numbers don't seem to add up.

The University of Wisconsin men's basketball team ranks last in the Big Ten Conference in field goal percentage in conference games (39.8), which would seem to indicate the Badgers' offense is in critical condition.

But the No. 18 Badgers' points-per-possession number (1.14) — a good indicator of how an offense is performing — is respectable. It's almost as good as that of Illinois (1.16), which leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage.

Indiana also averages 1.14 points per possession and it ranks third in the conference in field goal percentage (47.7). The Hoosiers (10-8, 1-4 Big Ten) play the Badgers (13-4, 3-2) in a Big Ten game Thursday night at the Kohl Center at 8 p.m.

Ask UW coach Bo Ryan about it and he'll answer that the field goal percentage measures just one part of an offense, while points per possession numbers take more into account.

For instance, the Badgers' shooting percentage from 3-point range isn't great (35.6), but it's enough to help overcome the poorer overall percentage. They also have made the fourth-most 3s among conference teams.

"If you shoot 33 percent (from 3-point range), that's 50 percent from the floor (overall)," Ryan said. "That can make up for (a low overall shooting percentage) and give you your points per possession, because the field goal percentage doesn't have to be as high if you're hitting 3s."

The Badgers' offensive numbers also are boosted because they lead the Big Ten in free throw shooting (85.1) and fewest turnovers committed per game (6.2) in conference games.

They also average a respectable 20 free throws a game, although that number is skewed by their 41 attempts during a 76-66 win over Illinois on Saturday at the Kohl Center.

But Ryan said free throws shouldn't be overlooked.

"Now sometimes you can drive to draw a contact to get to the free throw line, but the shot might be blocked or it was a tough shot," Ryan said. "So maybe you didn't come away with something, but it's not the end of the world. You forced them to have to protect the goal. You put them on their heels a little bit.

"Maybe the next time you drive, that same contact can take place and you might draw a foul. So what percentage of the points were scored from the free throw line?"

Still, the Badgers are hardly satisfied with their offensive numbers. They have shot less than 40 percent in three Big Ten games and have gone 10 straight games without cracking 50 percent.

Only seniors Tim Jarmusz and Keaton Nankivil are shooting close to or better than they did during non-conference games.

"Being last in field goal percentage is obviously something we want to change, and I think we will change," senior forward Jon Leuer said. "We've had a couple of games, like at Illinois, where we had open shots but just didn't shoot very well. You're going to have nights like that and you'll have some where you can't miss. I think that all is going to level out."

Leuer, who is shooting 40.8 percent overall and 36.4 percent from 3-point range in Big Ten games while averaging 17.6 points, believes the same is true for his shooting.

"I think a few shots I've forced and didn't go toward the basket, and that happens once in awhile when you're trying to help the team and do certain things," he said. "But for the most part I think I've shot the ball pretty well and I'm going to continue to keep being aggressive and hopefully get some of them to go down."

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