Men’s basketball success decided behind the arc

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Photo by Brigham Berthold

“Live by the three, die by the three.” It is one of the most common phrases in the game of basketball, and it rings true with the UVU men’s basketball team. Last week, Review sports editor Kaleb Searle wrote that the Wolverines are shooting 3-pointers at a top-5 national rate, and are on pace to shoot more than 800 3-pointers this season. Knowing that the team is shooting this many 3-pointers, how does their shooting performance from beyond the arc correlate with the team’s record? The Wolverines have been underachieving at the halfway mark of the season, and the “live by the three, die by the three” playing style has had a large effect.

The Wolverines shoot an astounding 27.6 3-pointers per game, leading the WAC in attempts per game. Jordan Poydras and Conner Toolson lead the team in 3-point shot attempts, averaging more than 5.5 attempts per game. However, the team is fourth in the conference in 3-pointers made each game with 8.5 and ranks last in the conference in 3-point percentage, shooting 31 percent from behind the arc. A team shooting as many 3-pointers as UVU does while being last in shooting percentage is not a combination for success.

Earlier this season, the Wolverines went into Provo against the heavily-favored Cougars and set a visiting team record for points in the Marriott Center with 114, including 60 points in the second half. The ability to knock down shots from behind the 3-point line lifted UVU over BYU, as the Wolverines shot 49 percent from deep making 18 3-pointers. Poydras and Toolson both made four 3-pointers during the win.

Now let’s rewind to Feb. 4 in Seattle, when UVU struggled from behind the 3-point line and scored only 50 points. The Wolverines shot 3-of-26 from behind the arc. Poydras and Toolson shot a combined 1-of-10 from 3-point range. It is nearly impossible to win a basketball game at any level shooting so poorly.

This has been going on the entire season for the Wolverines, living by the three and dying by the three. In its victories this season, UVU makes more than 10 3-pointers per game. In its losses, UVU makes fewer than seven. That is a difference of at least 12 points each game. The Wolverines have lost nine games this season by fewer than 12 points, and failing to knock down the 3-point shot has contributed to those losses.

UVU may have struggled during the first half of conference play, but there is still time to turn the season around before the conference tournament. The team will likely continue shooting 3-pointers at a high rate each game, and they can easily catch a hot streak down the stretch. The 3-point shot has become part of the team’s identity this season;  there is no reason to abandon it now. It will either lift the team to great heights, or it will be the team’s eventual downfall. Regardless, the right thing to do is keep firing away.