Shizz Alston Jr. (above) has made more than half of his 3-point attempts through Temple's first eight games. (Photo: Tommy Smith/CoBL)
Perimeter shooting is nothing new for Shizz Alston Jr. His ability to knock down those shots and shoot efficiently however, has seen a bit of a change.
In the Owls 81-78 win over St. Joe’s on Saturday, Alston drained five shots from beyond the arc, tying his season high for 3-pointers made. The 6-foot-4 junior guard made also five treys in the Owls season opening win against Old Dominion on Nov. 16.
That’s become a trend for the Haverford School product, who’s gone from an average 3-point shooter to one of the hottest snipers in the country through the early part of the 2017-18 season.
As a sophomore, his first year in the starting lineup, Alston averaged 13.9 ppg while shooting 34.5 percent from deep, itself a nice improvement on the 27.1 percent he shot on triples during his freshman year.
But through his first eight games this season, he’s shooting a scorching 53.5 percent (23-of-45) from beyond the arc, propelling him to 17.3 ppg, tied for the team high with sophomore Quinton Rose.
“I’ve been putting a lot of work in the summertime,” Alston said, “just trying to become a better shooter, just putting shots up in the morning before classes just trying to perfect the jump shot.”
Alston has made at least two 3-pointers in all but one game this season. His only bad outing was a 1-5 showing from deep in the Owls’ win over South Carolina on Nov. 30.
Despite taking fewer triples this year, from 6.1/game down to 5.4/game, he’s now making 2.9/game, up from 2.1/game. And it’s having a huge impact on his team’s overall long-range shooting success.
Through the first eight games of the season, the Owls are 64-of-172 (37.2 percent) on 3-pointers; before Saturday’s game, they were hitting 36.8 percent, good for 115th in the country. Take out Alston’s shooting, and their pre-Saturday numbers (35-of-109, 32.1 percent) would have been 277th in Division I hoops.
While getting reps in practice is a necessity towards being a good shooter, Alston says that better shot selection has also played a large role in his percentage taking such a noticeable leap.
“When the shot clock was running down I used to always take long 3s,” he said. “Now I try to get to the basket more, and then shoot the open 3s.”
Alston’s five three’s came on eight attempts en route to a game-high 20 points in the win over the Hawks. His fourth, with 2:34 remaining in the first half, capped the 12-0 run that gave the Owls the lead for good.
“He made a couple 3s in a row in the first half and then took another one, a little heat check jumper and he came to the sideline and said ‘bad shot’ and I said ‘what, are you kidding?’” Owls head coach Fran Dunphy said. “‘You made two in a row and you’re feeling it and there may be other times where you want to think again, but that was probably not one of them.’”
“I’m from Philly, so I always want to play especially well in games against Big 5 schools,” Alston said. “It’s really big for us to be able to win these games.”
The Owls’ next test will also be a Big 5 opponent, and more than likely their toughest game of the season. The Owls will welcome the 9-0 Villanova Wildcats to the Liacouras Center for a 7:00 game Wednesday night.
There, Alston will not only have to hit shots to keep up with the likes of Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and the rest of the national No. 4 Wildcats -- a ranking sure to change on Monday, considering both No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Kansas lost this week -- but find a way to stop them as well.
“That's certainly the next step for him,” Dunphy said. “He’s got to be really reliable defensively, and I think he’s getting there.”
Lamarr Kimble might be out for the season, but the St. Joe’s junior guard seems to be doing whatever he can to help out a Hawks squad that’s still very much figuring itself out as the season begins to enter its middle third.
According to Hawks coach Phil Martelli, Kimble had some choice words for his teammates as they entered the locker room following their second loss in a row, both to Big 5 opponents.
“We just had brilliance in that locker room from Fresh Kimble,” Martelli said, “he just said to them ‘you have to understand significance, every play is significant. Every. Single. Play.’
“I made him say it again, because it was really astute,” SJU’s 23rd-year coach added. “It’s really astute. And we’ll bring it up again when we start preparing for a tough week ahead.”
Kimble, a Neumann-Goretti grad, suffered a fractured bone in his fifth metatarsal of his left foot in the Hawks’ season opener, an injury that will keep him out of the entire season. He’s not the only St. Joe’s starter sidelined; sophomore Charlie Brown, who’s yet to play this season, remains out indefinitely due to a fractured left wrist.
The Hawks (4-5) now have eight days until their next game, hosting 2-8 Maine on Dec. 17, with tip-off scheduled for 4:30 PM at Hagan Arena. Though St. Joe’s has finals this week, Martelli and his team’s leaders are expecting plenty of work on their games as well to prepare for the rapidly-upcoming Atlantic 10 slate.
“They finished [the post-game meeting] with Shavar telling them ‘you’ve got to get in the lab, got to get working on our game,’” Martelli said. “Because this is what we have. When’s Charlie coming back? I have no idea.”
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