Idea for Panthers’ New Year’s resolution: Shoot the 3-ball more
By: Ryan Bertonaschi
Following a 12-point pounding at Indiana in early December, the Pitt Panthers had a five-game home stand against inferior nonconference opponents ahead of them.
They could not afford to lose any of those games, and, Tuesday evening at the Petersen Events Center, Pitt (10-3) successfully capped off that task by downing Florida Gulf Coast (9-5) 71-54 and, ultimately, going unscathed through that span.
The Panthers won by considerable margins in their past two games, which has helped them tremendously in terms of working out some of their defensive weaknesses.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has said that forward Sheldon Jeter has improved on the defensive side of the ball, and, in response, Dixon was able to work Jeter into his rotation after Jeter rode the bench in many of Pitt’s earlier games.
However, one area in which the Panthers haven’t shown signs of improvement is attempting 3-pointers.
Pitt entered Tuesday’s contest tied for 321st out of 350 Division I teams in attempted threes per game (15). Over their past six games, the Panthers have attempted just 65 shots from 3-point land.
Pitt attempted just 12 against FGCU, making a mere four of them.
Cameron Wright said after the game that he wasn’t overly-concerned about the lack of 3-balls because, he said, that only means the Panthers are getting more lay-ups.
“I do think we’re taking good shots and that’s the most important thing,” Dixon said. “We’ve seen a lot of zone and I thought at times that we passed up some shots earlier in the year when we had some fours playing threes and fives playing the four and that may have something to do with it as well. I think we’re taking good shots and I do think we’re a better shooting team than we’ve shown, and we’ve just got to keep working on it.”
Problem is, Pitt is not necessarily tearing it up around the rim. The Panthers are shooting 48.6 percent from 2-point territory, which is tied for 177th in the nation.
In a day and age when Ken Pomeroy is selling subscriptions to his statistical-based college basketball ratings site like burgers at a fast food joint, it’s not necessary for me to delve into the importance of the 3-point shot to a team’s success. For the record, studies have repeatedly shown that it’s more efficient to take a 3-point shot than just about any other shot excluding the lay-up.
Pitt is tied for 180th in points per shot (1.24) this season. This is probably a direct result of its shot selection. Perhaps the most telling stat of them all is this: just 22 percent of the Panthers’ points are coming off threes, which they are shooting at 34.6 percent collectively (tied for 139th).
Pitt is, simply put, not heaving up enough from outside the arc this season. It’s especially odd since, for the first time in the Jamie Dixon era, Pitt has five guys in the starting rotation that are comfortable shooting from outside.
Point guard James Robinson has made just eight 3-point jumpers over the course of the season, attempting 32. Michael Young has attempted just five 3-pointers on the season, making none.
Dixon explained that Young should be keeping his game inside the perimeter.
“He seems to be shooting a lot better around the basket, and he gets fouled and he’s a good free-throw shooter. So good things are happening like that,” he said. “At times, he’s passed up some mid-range jump shots and put it on the floor and I think he needs to take those when open. You just look at his numbers. He’s shooting a high percentage inside the three and a not so high percentage outside the three, so numbers are usually a pretty telling sign.”
Regardless, Young’s inside presence should, in theory, free opportunities for others on the floor to catch and shoot. Dixon actually mentioned the aforementioned Tuesday night. After all, Young has been getting trapped often at the low post in the past several games.
Pitt opens its ACC play Saturday at noon at North Carolina State.
Dixon is open for a change on the offensive end. And as the New Year is rung in, his players should resolve to shooting 3-pointers better and shooting them more often.
“No team is where they want to be right now and we’ve obviously had to make some adjustments,” Dixon said. “I feel like we’ve got some room to improve.”