Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gamecocks hot from the line

Talk about your big-time turnarounds.

Two years ago, the Jacksonville State basketball team was among the worst in the country when it came to shooting free throws. The Gamecocks were 338 out of 341 teams in Division I. Only Wagner, Winthrop and Washington were worse.

After Tuesday night's game at Ole Miss -- where they went 11-for-11 from the line in the first half and 19-of-21 in the game -- they are among this season's best -- 13th.

JSU coach James Green suggested two reasons for the turnaround Wednesday -- recruit players who are better free throw shooters and emphasize the skill.

"I think we work on it and we try to put a little bit of pressure on guys and we constantly talk about the importance of it," Green said. "That's kind of been a deal this year where our guys understand that and our concentration level is higher. I'm really excited about that."

We'll take a look at the turnaround later this week when we preview the Gamecocks' weekend road trip to Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri. Check it out.

But for now, here's the year-by-year listing of JSU's national ranking in free throw shooting since the program went full-fledged Division I as a member of the TransAmerica Athletic Conference (remember them?):

2009-10 .765 13
2008-09 .653 T276 (with Toledo)
2007-08 .600 338
2006-07 .673 T219 (Milwaukee, Alcorn State)
2005-06 .696 T147 (Oregon St., Bucknell, St. Louis)
2004-05 .721 68
2003-04 .656 T254 (Long Island, Alabama State, Army)
2002-03 .676 T228 (SE Louisiana, Santa Clara, Binghamton)
2001-02 .681 T194 (Houston, Dayton, W. Virgina)
2000-01 .654 T252 (Milwaukee, Va. Tech, Ole Miss)
1999-00 .664 T218 (Stephen F. Austin, Winthrop, Cornell, Ga. State)
1998-99 .640 T264 (Stephen F. Austin)
1997-98 .700 T79 (Liberty, UMass, Missouri)
1996-97 .656 T209 (Iowa State, UIC, William & Mary, Buffalo)
1995-96 .721 NA

It should be noted that a good percentage at the free throw line doesn't guarantee a winning season. In the three years the Gamecocks shot .700 or better -- 2004-05, 1997-98 and 1995-96 -- they went 7-22, 12-14 and 10-17, respectively, while in their best Division I season -- 20-10 in 2002-03 -- they were .676 at the line.

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