With one shot against Wisconsin on Monday, senior guard Carmen Reynolds sunk her 183rd career 3-pointer, becoming the all-time leader in that category for the Michigan women’s basketball team. She also reached the 1,000-point milestone on Dec. 30 against Illinois.
Both of these feats speak volumes about how successful a career Reynolds has had. But this season, Reynolds, among other Wolverines, has been struggling from behind the arc.
Prior to this season, Reynolds was a career 38.3-percent 3-point shooter. This season, she’s averaging a mere 25 percent from deep. But Michigan coach Kevin Borseth has maintained his faith in the senior guard since her dry spell became a season-long shooting struggle.
“It’s just a matter of her getting enough shots,” Borseth said following a Dec. 13 loss to Eastern Michigan. “If she gets enough shots, she will make them. She is a good shooter, she is a money shooter. She is one of those kids that are going to make it when she shoots it. That is a confidence we all have in her.”
And why wouldn’t he have confidence in her? She’s a three-year starter, averaged 13.1 and 10 points per game during her sophomore and junior campaigns, and was recruited by Borseth primarily as a shooter.
But it’s not only Reynolds that Borseth has faith in from behind the arc. Almost every single player on the Wolverine roster seems to have the green light from 3-point territory, even though the team has consistently struggled to score from deep.
Before the Wolverines began their current two-game slide — suffering losses to Penn State at home and the Badgers on the road — they had won three straight. During that winning streak Michigan shot just 28.1 percent and averaged 21 attempts behind the arc per game.
In the last two games, the numbers haven’t been that much different for the Wolverines — they went 20 percent from long range, and averaged 22.5 attempts.
So what was the problem? Well, Borseth had this to say following the Penn State loss:
“We were 0-for-11 from the arc in the first half with really good shots,” Borseth said. “We got where we wanted to get to, we got in the lane. … Obviously, every time we got in that lane, (the Nittany Lions) collapsed and forced our kids to pitch it. We threw it to the right people, (they just) didn’t make it.”
Michigan finished 3-for-20 on the game.
But Michigan went into Madison knowing it wasn’t going to face such a formidable foe in the paint. The Badgers were 3-5 in conference play prior to the game, beating all the teams they should beat and losing to those in the upper echelon.
You’d think that since the Wolverines’ 3-point shooting was so poor against Penn State, they might have changed something. But they didn’t, proceeding to go 6-for-25 from behind the arc en route to a 66-60 loss.
“It was like we were getting kicked around during a game of ‘pig’ out there,” Borseth said following the loss to the Badgers. “Just wide-open shots, and we weren’t making them. Luckily, our defense was playing really well in the first half, and we kept them away from the basket, but we were unable to score.”
The Wolverines’ defense did cut a 16-point second-half deficit against Wisconsin to tie it up with six minutes left, mostly by making 3-pointers.
The low percentage wouldn’t be such a big deal if Michigan was taking fewer 3-point attempts and just missing them — because a third of its shot attempts have been from behind the arc. But during the Penn State loss, the deep balls accounted for 43 percent of the entire shot selection. The shot selection was a little better in the loss to the Badgers, accounting for only 31 percent, but they just couldn’t buy a bucket.
At what point do you reel some of the players in and cut back on the long-range attempts? Though the defense kept Michigan in the game against the Badgers, the Wolverines will have to score to beat the top teams in the conference.
It’s as simple as that.
Michigan will have to start hitting more 3-pointers, or simple take less of them, if it hopes to continue having success. It’s not a secret that the Wolverines aren’t one of the best defensive teams in the conference. But they are one of the smarter and more experienced teams. Michigan will need to use that intelligence and experience down the stretch, and maybe consider reining in the their attempts from the arc if the shots don’t start falling.