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How many free throws can you shoot in a row?

Thursday night, Valentin broke the women's NCAA Division I record for consecutive free throws in a season with 61 straight shots

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Jan. 13, 2006 

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Like a hitter digging into the batter's box, she plants her right foot just behind the free throw line. Once set, the left foot follows. After receiving the ball, she dribbles six times with her left hand. Following the sixth dribble, she places her right index finger over the air insertion hole. Ever so slightly, she bends her knees and then quickly straightens them as her arm extends and the ball smoothly rolls off her fingertips.

Dating back to a Nov. 26, 2005, game against Bowling Green, senior guard Cyndi Valentin has performed this routine 61 consecutive times.

And each time she has produced the same result -- a made free throw.

In 1992, Ginny Doyle of the University of Richmond made 60 free throws in a row and set the NCAA Division I record for consecutive free throws made in a season. That record remained untouched until Valentin stepped to the line with 7:03 remaining against Northwestern on Thursday. After completing her routine, Valentin calmly knocked down her first free throw of the night and broke Doyle's 14-year-old record. After securing the record, Valentin missed her next free throw, ending the streak.

She now owns the Division I record and is tied with Valerie Kepner of Baldwin-Wallace College, who set the record for all NCAA Divisions in 1988-89.

Valentin is no stranger to accurate free-throw shooting. In her freshman season, she connected on 25-straight free throws through 13 games. As a sophomore, she began a streak of 48 consecutive free throws made that carried over into her junior year, spanning from Jan. 2 to Nov. 27, 2004.

Currently, Valentin's season average of .951 (78-of-82) ranks second in both the nation and the Big Ten.

She also holds the school and Big Ten record for career free-throw percentage (.892).

"I've always shot free throws well," she said. "Last year, I only shot 84 (84-of-103, .816), which wasn't very good. I made it a point that I wanted to shoot better than that. (IU) coach (Sharon Versyp) has us shoot free throws. That's her big emphasis, that if you can't hit free throws, you can't win games."

Senior forward Jenny DeMuth has bought into her teammate's philosophy. Throughout her career, DeMuth has been doing her best to help the Hoosiers win by -- among other things -- making free throws.

DeMuth preceded Valentin in making IU free throw history Jan. 9 against Minnesota by surpassing Denise Jackson's record of 443 free throws made in a career. With 451 free throws made, DeMuth sits alone atop the record books.

The forward has made free-throw shooting a priority in her game. After going 3-of-9 (.333) from the line against Purdue on Jan. 5, DeMuth made a goal to not miss another free throw for the rest of the season. In the next game, against Minnesota, she connected on all 10 of her free throws, en route to breaking Jackson's record.

But DeMuth claims personal records take a backseat to the team's success.

"Honestly, I've never really thought about it," she said. "I didn't even know that I was close to the record until someone said something the other day. I think it's great to have, but I'm just focused on the team and winning."

Both Valentin and DeMuth have been doing their part to lead the team to victory. Valentin leads the team in points per game and total assists, with 17.1 and 57, respectively. DeMuth is second in points per game with 14.1, while her season-total 125 rebounds leads the team. In addition, the duo's accurate free-throw shooting provides Versyp with two team leaders who feel comfortable in clutch situations.

"Its important to our team's success that they have the ball in their hands," Versyp said. "They want that pressure. With both of them contributing so well, that's just a big key to our success right now. They just have to continue to do that for their teammates and inspire their teammates to do the same."

So far, accurate free-throw shooting has been contagious. Through 16 games, the team has gone 250-of-335 (.755) from the line, ranking second in the Big Ten and 21st in the nation. Additionally, the Hoosiers have a .798 average (146-of-183) in their nine victories.

 

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