Tops pick inopportune time for season's worst-shooting day

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Western Kentucky is still one of the top-30 shooting teams in the nation. That comes after the worst shooting performance of the season.

In fact, WKU’s 36.1 percent mark from the field Saturday in a 75-64 loss at Texas San Antonio was its worst since at least 2010 when it finished 27 of 72 (37.5 percent) from the floor in a 95-77 loss to Minnesota in Puerto Rico. It was a eye-raising performance given the Hilltoppers (16-7, 8-2 Conference USA) came into the contest at UTSA shooting 49.4 percent as a team.

“As a coach, you wish that wouldn’t happen,” WKU coach Rick Stansbury said Monday during a Facebook Live broadcast. “Been around long enough to know you’ll have some games – you’re gonna go through a season you just don’t shoot it as well. Don’t have the answers why.”

Guards Darius Thompson, Lamonte Bearden, Josh Anderson and Jake Ohmer were a combined 6 of 27 from the floor Saturday. Had freshman Taveion Hollingsworth not hit 8 of 13 shots the Tops may have lost by 30 or more.

Ohmer seemingly had rediscovered his stroke Jan. 27 in a win over Marshall by scoring 12 points and making two of his three shots from long-range. But the trip to Texas El Paso and UTSA saw the freshman go 1-for-13 from the field, hitting a single 3 on Thursday at UTEP.

“I believe he’s a shooter. I know he’s a shooter,” Stansbury said of Ohmer. “What makes guys go through slumps? If we had answers to that we’d probably wouldn’t be coaching. But it happens. It happens everywhere. I just know as a coach, when got a shooter than can shoot, and when you’re not shooting it? You gotta shoot your way through it.

“You gotta work your way through it. Get into the games, don’t worry about having to add to by just making shots for your value. Get into your games thinking about how hard I’m gonna play. Don’t let the thought process creep into your mind, get cobwebs into your mind. Shooters sometimes put pressure on themselves, particularly young guys who’s learning how to play a different role and all that.”

Thompson also struggled with his radar over the weekend. The senior transfer from Virginia was just 6 of 16 combined and missed all five of his 3-point attempts.

Western has not been a team to live and dive by the 3 this season – it makes about six per game. The Tops’ strength lies in getting to the foul line as well as letting forwards Justin Johnson and Dwight Coleby work in the offensive paint.

Getting Thompson and Ohmer out of their respective mini-shooting slumps, however, will be crucial down the stretch.

“You’re either a bad shooter or you’re a good shooter taking bad shots – which one is it? I know (Thompson’s) a good shooter. He’s not taking bad shots,” Stansbury said. “Shooter’s gotta believe when you miss one, you’re gonna make the next one. That’s what real shooters do. As a coach – like I told (Ohmer) this the second half (at UTSA), ‘Hey, the ball comes to you, and you turn a shot down, you’re coming out of the game. You catch it and shoot and believe you’re gonna be ready to make the next one.’

“That’s all you can do as a shooter. And get in the gym and shoot your way through it. Get in there and put up 1,000 shots a day. When you make shots, it makes the world go ‘round. That’s just where it is.”

HOLLINGSWORTH GUNNING FOR LEE

Hollingsworth is aware of the number he’s chasing:


Western’s first-year guard is trying to become the program’s all-time leading scorer for points in a season by a freshman. But he has some work to do.

After scoring 21 points Saturday in a loss to UTSA, Hollingsworth has 301 points to his name, 20 behind all-time great George Fant. Lee scored 461 points in 2004-05.

Hollingsworth, from Lexington, would need to average 20 points over the final eight games of the regular season just to tie Lee. Add a single conference tournament game in the mix and Hollingsworth would still need to score 17.7 ppg to match Lee’s record.

The 6-foot-3 guard will certainly end his freshman year among the top five on the list: Fant is seventh, Patrick Sparks is sixth with 343 points and Kannard Johnson is fifth with 370.

JOHNSON CONTINUES TO CLIMB REBOUND RANKS

Coming into his final season, Johnson had an outside chance at becoming a top-10 scorer in WKU history. That achievement is now likely impossible as the 2017-18 year winds down.

Johnson would need to score 30.6 points per game over the next eight regular season games just to reach Bobby Rascoe’s 1,687 career points, the 10th-most in a WKU career. The Perry County Central High School graduate is 102 points shy of moving into the top 15 past Stephon Pettigrew (1,544).

It does appear, however, Johnson can move into the ranks as one of the program’s top-five rebounders. He needs 45 to tie Bob Daniels’ 964 for fifth – an average of 5.6 over the next eight games.

If Johnson really does go on a rebounding tear over the final month of the season, he could reach the 1,000-rebound mark of this career and become the fifth player in WKU history – the first since 1971 – to have at least 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 points.

NOTES

• WKU ranks 18th nationally with 355 total fouls, 19th with 15.4 fouls committed per game, 26th and with a field goal percentage of 48.8, 71st in scoring margin (8.1), 81st with 283 total turnovers, 82nd in field goal percentage defense (41.9 percent) and with 513 free throws attempted, 85th in turnover margin (1.6), 90th in steals per game (7), 92nd in scoring offense (77.4 points per game) and 99th with four blocked shots per game.

• The Hilltoppers also rank 338th (out of 351) nationally with 356 total 3-point attempts, 322nd in total 3s made (130), 319th with 5.7 made 3s per game, 255th in free-throw shooting (68.8 percent), and 225th with 9.78 offensive rebounds per game.

• Johnson now ranks 24th nationally with 7.3 defensive rebounds per game, 28th with 9.6 rebounds per game, 29th with 221 total rebounds and 57th with eight double-doubles.

• Coleby ranks 36th nationally with 48 blocks, 37th with 2.09 blocked shots per game, 40th with nine double-doubles, 64th with 8.7 rebounds per game, 68th with 199 total rebounds, 76th with with six defensive rebounds per game and 95th with 2.65 offensive rebounds per game.

• Thompson ranks 41st nationally with 36 minutes per game, 54th with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.53, 90th with 4.7 assists per game and 93rd with 109 assists.

— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop