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Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jayhawks improved from the stripe

February 13, 2008

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The new year's resolution was simple for the Kansas University men's basketball team: Find a way to fix the Jayhawks' string of dismal performances from the free-throw line.

"I think most KU fans would agree that we will shoot free throws better. Ooh, brutal," KU coach Bill Self said after his players made 12 of 25 fouls shots in their Dec. 29 game against Yale.

"You can't put it on one or two guys," Self said at the time. "It's the whole team. Every guy on our team, with the exception of Sasha (Kaun), who plays major minutes, is shooting between 60 and 70 percent. That's not good enough."

As resolutions go, the Jayhawks couldn't have made out much better.

KU exited 2007 as the second-worst free-throw shooting team in the Big 12, behind only Texas A&M's 59 percent. Since then, however, the Jayhawks have turned it around considerably at the line and now rank sixth in the Big 12, above the conference's average.

After shooting 62.8 percent (167-for-266) from the charity stripe through the team's first 13 games, KU has shot 74.8 percent (226-for-302) in the new year, upping the team's overall percentage to 69.2

The numbers have increased for the Jayhawks across the board.

Brandon Rush and Russell Robinson once were the only players shooting above 70 percent. Now, five KU players in the regular rotation have reached that plateau, with Darnell Jackson knocking on the door, as well (69.5 percent).

Even Kaun, for all his documented struggles, has improved his free-throw percentage from 51 percent to 56.8 percent.

"He's making free throws. If he's making free throws, it's probably a sign he's more confident," Self said.

"I think it's really mental for me," Kaun said of the art of free throwing. "In practice, I shoot them really good, 75 to 80 percent. In games it's so mental. I try to relax and do what I do in practice. That's pretty much what I've been trying to do."

Self said the Jayhawks after their early-season slump at the line began to "practice it more than we have in past years. We've got enough good shooters to be a great free-throw shooting team."

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