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Shooting issues bothering Penn early in season

11/29/2015, 7:45pm EST
By Andrew Koob

Sam Jones (above) is the only Penn player making more than 33.3 percent from 3-point range. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Andrew Koob (@AndrewKoob)

EASTON, Pa. — Penn coach Steve Donahue wants his team to rely on two types of shots: layups and 3-pointers.

So far, they’re struggling mightily with one of those two primary options.

Heading into Sunday’s contest with Lafayette, a 92-86 defeat, the Quakers (4-2) were one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the nation, tied with Southeastern Louisiana at 296th with a 28.8 percent success rate behind the arc.

That ranking will be even worse after Penn’s performance against the Leopards. Penn suffered from poor shot selection in the first half, missing their first 11 shots from beyond the arc before a Darnell Foreman trey with one second remaining in the first half ended the drought.

“At the beginning of the game, we got behind really quick and got a little frustrated,” Penn sophomore Sam Jones said. “I took a couple quick ones, trying to get myself in. I should have just let the game come to me.

“If we’re getting open shots, it’s great,” Jones added. “I think, at the beginning of the game, we took a couple bad shots. I myself took two horrible shots. But if we can take the good ones, they’ll go in.”

Jones was the only Quaker to hit multiple three-point shots on the day, connecting on three of his nine attempts. Three other Penn players in Antonio Woods, Matt Howard and Foreman were a combined 3-of-14 from deep.

On the season, Jones (38.9 percent) is the only member of the team making more than one-third of his 3-pointers; Woods (5-of-27, 18.5 percent), plus freshmen guards Jackson Donahue (2-of-11, 18.2 percent) and Jake Silpe (2-of-15, 13.3 percent) all are better shooters than their numbers indicate.

The Quakers would improve as the game progressed, hitting five of 11 attempts in the second half and finishing with a 7-of-26 (26.9 percent) performance from three-point range. That mark decreases their shooting percentage from deep to 28.5 percent on the young season, which would put them around 303rd in the nation.

“Besides this game, we’ve been taking great shots,” Jones said. “I don’t think we’ve taken many bad shots but, the first five minutes of this game, was the first time we’ve really taken a couple of bad shots and I was definitely a part of that.

“We shoot the ball really great in practice and if we’re hitting open ones, we’re going to hit them. I think everyone is shooting the ball great and they’re going to fall. I’m not worried about that at all.”

The Quakers have had more success from deep at the Palestra, as opposed to on the road. In three home contests, wins over Robert Morris, Central Connecticut and La Salle, Penn has hit 27 of their 74 attempted 3-point shots, a 36.5 percent rate.

As the Quakers venture out of the Cathedral, however, it appears Penn leaves its shot in West Philadelphia. In three road games, a win against Delaware State and losses to Washington and Lafayette, Penn is shooting 16-for-77 (20.7 percent).

Donahue believes that, as the Quakers move past the early struggles and establish a triumphant identity, the poor stretches of shooting will fade and the shots will start to fall.

They’ll have time to figure out their road woes as Penn only plays one away game, a Dec. 5 contest at George Mason, before back-to-back away contests at Drexel and Villanova on Dec. 22 and Dec. 28, respectively.

“I think our shooting is very peculiar in a sense,” Donahue said. “Right now, it’s a home and away thing. We shot the ball very well in three home games and very poorly in three road games. Similar shots, I think Sam was right in that we rushed a couple of shots, but that plays into me. We’re not sure who we are yet, so we want to make some shots and stir the tide a little bit.

“We don’t have a pedigree of success yet to think that, we’re going into someone else’s gym and figuring out how we’re going to win the game. But we’ll get there.”

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