Monday, December 18, 2006

A Thorn-ton of Shots

This blog was at the UW-Milwaukee game when they took on Youngstown State on December 10th. There were a few advantages to this.

A) UWM was having a "White-out" day where all fans were supposed to wear white, presumably setting up a cool and intimidating backdrop for the opposing Penguins.

B) Among UWM's better chances at winning a game the rest of the way.

C) Plenty of great seats available.

D) Free white Panthers t-shirt with student ID. (This blog was able to get ahold of one)

E) It's college basketball, come on!

The initial goal was to grab a shirt, sit in the student section (pretty close to the court), and again count passes. All went well until just before the tipoff, when one of the 6 or 7 students in the front row turned around, pointed to Pun City, and said, "Hey you! Get down here, we gotta white 'em out!"

Pun City's a sucker for front row seats, and this blog had to give the dude some credit for being at this game in the midst of a poor start (2-9) for the Panthers and a relatively early start time (12:00 PM). Aside from this, he wasn't down on them, seemed to legitimately care, and knew that filling the front row with white would have pretty much the desired effect of the white-out.

So this blog abandoned its notebook and headed to the front row. A fun game to watch, and both teams were putting a lot of effort into the game, which is good to see because it's not always the case with struggling programs.

Fortunately for you, Pun City was able to head back to the 8th row for the 2nd half, and tracked passes for that period.

Here's the breakdown (2nd-half stats only):

Marcus Skinner: 4 passes, 0 shots
Sam Mauldin: 1 pass, 0 shots
Charlie Swiggett: 1 shot every 10 passes (1 and 10)
Allan Hanson: 1 shot every 6 passes (4 and 24)
Kevin Massiah: 1 shot every 3.75 passes (4 and 15)
Roman Gentry: 1 shot every 3 passes (3 and 9)
Avery Smith: 1 shot every 2.86 passes (7 and 20)
Ricky Franklin: 1 shot every 2 passes (1 and 2)
Paige Paulsen: 1 shot every 1.57 passes (7 and 11)
Ryan Thornton: 1 shot every 0.75 passes (4 and 3)

And the 2nd-half shooting percentages:

Kevin Massiah: 75.o%
Paige Paulsen: 57.1%
Avery Smith: 42.9%
Roman Gentry: 33.3%
Allan Hanson: 25.0%
Ricky Franklin: 0.0%
Charlie Swiggett: 0.0%
Ryan Thornton: 0.0%
(Sam Mauldin and Marcus Skinner did not shoot)

Once again, dismal from Ryan Thornton. Four shots, three passes, 0 made shots. Swiggett and Franklin passed more than they shot and only missed one shot apiece.

This blog is going to take the opportunity to defend Thornton actually. On the one hand, UWM runs the "Swing" offense, and in an offense named after a pass, one would imagine everyone would emphasize the pass. At the very least, you'd hope everyone would pass more than they shoot, which is difficult to avoid in any basketball game.

While Thornton may in fact be a ball hog, there is at least a partial explanation for his statistical oddity. Panthers coach Rob Jeter seems to have defined his role as a shooter, and very possibly a specialist in this regard. Before the end of each half (excepting very close games near the end of regulation), Jeter inserts Thornton for what this blog believes to be 2 reasons: a) to shoot the last-second buzzer-beater, which perhaps Thornton has shown aptitude for in practice (certainly not in games, but it's a tough shot so no big deal); and b) hoping Thornton gets fouled. This blog is fairly convinced that Thornton can shoot free throws better than most of the Panthers. There isn't a lot of hard evidence for this, but he is 9 of 10 from the line this year, so that's good even if it's spread over 11 games.

So it's very possible that Thornton is supposed to be, or at least is being set up to be the statistical anomaly he has become. The problem is the dude's shooting 26% from the field and rarely passing in a position that would require a high shooting percentage, a lot of passing, or both.

Most likely a combination of better coaching and playing would improve the situation. Shot selection would seem to be the main culprit for Thornton's poor percentage, but he's often faced with a defender all over him, so if he were the recipient of more screens or set plays where he could catch and shoot without having to worry about a defender, his percentage would go up.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few comments:

1. "Ahold" isn't a word.

2. I've never heard of a school, at any level, having difficulty "filling in the front row."

3. Passing more than you shoot is more than difficult to avoid in a basketball game, it's basically unheard of. Even the purest shooters (Your Steve Kurrs or Clayton Hansens, if you will) don't do this.

4. Even Jordan would give up the ball on last-second shots if he couldn't get open. Granted, he could usually get open, but the whole point of a last-second play is to get off an uncontested shot with a realistic chance of going in.

- Moike

5:57 AM  
Blogger Cooler Brian said...

1. See the next post.

2. That was sort of rough.

3. Post players, as shown in the next post (hiyo), can do this sometimes.

4. Yeah, these last-second shots are usually going 94 feet so he ends up with a half-courter. That said, probably could find someone else that has an angle.

5:14 PM  

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