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COLUMN: Free throws nearly prove costly in win over Howard



IU_vs_Howard_5

Senior forward Freddie McSwain Jr. attempts a layup during the Hoosiers' game against Howard University on Sunday. The Hoosiers beat Howard 86-77.  Evan De Stefano Buy Photos

The concept of a free throw is a basic one, and it should be made the majority of the time. That’s why it’s called a “free” throw.

IU didn’t quite understand that concept Sunday night against Howard, making just 12 of them and shooting 41 percent from the line.

The Hoosiers' first made free throw didn’t come until the eighth attempt, with 5:44 left in the first half. And this was in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, not in a road environment. That’s the more alarming part.

Three players managed to shoot under 50 percent from the free throw line, and there were five total Hoosiers who attempted one. That cannot happen in tight games against tougher opponents down the stretch.

The Hoosiers defeated Howard, 86-77, a single-digit victory against one of the worst teams in Division I.

IU also shot 29 free throws, and, again, only made 12 of those. 

Make all of them, or at least most, and IU wins by a margin of roughly 26, and breaks the 100-point mark. Now that looks like an IU-Howard score line.

IU improved significantly on the offensive end from their season-opening loss against Indiana State.

They reached and broke their total score of 69 in the middle of the second half, and even shot 54 percent from the field. It’s good to see that the offensive production is there, and shows that the Indiana State offensive struggle could just be a blip on the radar.

Now, there needs to be significant improvement from the free throw line because there were moments where Howard felt like they could somehow claw their way back into the game. That shouldn’t happen, especially at home.

One issue that was visible was the players’ body language when they stepped up to attempt their free throws. They looked stiff stepping up to the line, and out of character for returning guys. 

Confidence was lacking from IU players when they attempted “free” throws, especially at the beginning of the game. The Hoosiers shot 28 percent from the floor in the first half, making just four them.

Shaquille O’Neal, one of the worst free throw shooters of all time, shot 52.7 percent from the charity stripe in his career. Even he would have helped IU creep closer to the mean, and that’s saying a lot.

The positive take on this stat is that it is fixable, and can be adjusted quickly before it gets out of hand. IU shot nearly 73 percent from the line last season, and have multiple players on that team who can help with this issue.

Senior guard Robert Johnson made two of his six free throws tonight, shooting uncharacteristically after making nearly 76 percent last season. He hasn’t looked like his normal self so far this season either, so improvements will be made as the season goes along.

De’Ron Davis? A player who made 75 percent of his free throws just a year ago? Shot 3-10 tonight.

IU will be tested by a road environment for the first time Wednesday when they face No. 23 Seton Hall. They Hoosiers are going to have to make more than 41 percent of their free throws if they are to have any chance against a veteran team like the Pirates.

Failure to fix the issue by Wednesday? It could get ugly.

michrami@umail.iu.edu

@michrami

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