Free throws. A basketball player lines up on a designated line and has the opportunity to have a free shot at the basket. Each free throw is worth one point. It is one of the three fundamentals of basketball success: play defense, get rebounds, and make free throws. If you win in those areas you have a high probability of winning the game on the floor.
In the Avery Johnson era, there is a free throw problem. It’s a trend that has affected us in our biggest moments.
In Avery Johnson’s first year coaching at Alabama, only two players shot above 75 percent from the free throw line, Shannon Hale and Justin Coleman, two great role players who had good minutes off the floor. In year two, outside of the sparingly used Lawson Schaffer, again only two players, Avery Johnson Jr. and Ar’Mond Davis. In year three only three players were above that 75 percent mark in Collin Sexton, Avery Johnson Jr., and Alex Reese.
Over Johnson’s tenure the players have shot mostly around 50 percent from the free throw line as a team, that’s about 7-9 points Alabama leaves off the board.
Take the loss to Georgia State at home this year; a loss by three points in Coleman Coliseum. The Panthers shot 75 percent from the free throw line missing only 5 of their attempts. Alabama shot 58 percent from the free throw line, missing 13 of them. If the Tide had matched them in free throw percentage at 75 they win the game by 2 points.
Last year against Arkansas at home, the Razorbacks shot 71 percent from the free throw line, while Alabama shot 67 percent with more attempts. If they hit the 75 percent mark, it would have result in a tie or a one-point win.
Same thing with the UCF game last year, shooting 75 percent from the free throw line wins that game.
The losses have been riddled with poor free throw shooting and they haven’t improved over time.
Donta Hall displays what can happen when you put the time and effort into making the free throws and the team needs to follow his lead. His freshman year he shot 43 percent from the free throw line. The fans were happy when he made one. This year he is the third best free throw shooter on the team behind Kira Lewis and Alex Reese shooting 76 percent from the line and becoming a bright spot in that aspect.
Alabama has the potential but it’s the little things that cost them big in win column, which affects seeding and tournaments. The Crimson Tide had the talent last year to make a deeper run, but with unnecessary losses, they got a bad seed and lost to Villanova in the second round.
For the Tide fans, it can be frustrating how great the past teams have been, but can’t get the job done when it comes to the free points. It’s a problem, but it’s fixable.
(Photo courtesy of Hannah Saad)