Arians’ three-point shooting woes deserve patience

At several points during the first half of Milwaukee’s December 17th double-overtime loss to South Dakota, fans groaned as the Panthers clanked three-pointer after three-pointer. Poor outside shooting was the main culprit of Milwaukee’s 11-point deficit at half and contributed to the loss – although the Panthers made 14 threes, they took 43 of them – by far a school record.

At the center of this struggle was small forward Austin Arians, in the middle of what has been a particularly trying month from outside the arc. The junior was 1-for-5 in the first half and ended up 4-for-12, a respectable number but still not what you’d hope for from someone who takes many of his threes from several feet behind the arc.

Many have argued that it’s time for Arians to stop taking so many three-pointers, since he’s not shooting at a high percentage and the Panthers need to maintain the top clip from the field if they’re going to win the conference.

As frustrating as it may be for some fans in the crowd at Panther Arena, the best way for Arians to get out of his shooting slump is to shoot his way out of it.

In December, Arians is 7-for-32 from beyond the arc in Division I games. That’s a paltry 21.9%, enough to get just about anyone a spot on the bench. In Arians’ case, however, he can turn the corner and start lighting up from outside. That talent can change a game. Bad shooting from one player can be overcome, and great shooting from a player like Arians can seal a victory.

Ask any Panther fan what the problem is with Arians’ three-point shooting, and they’ll tell you he’s taking shots that are way too far out. This is not the case. When you have the leg strength to take the shot, you can take the shot. Any argument I would make for Arians to move closer to the three-point line for his shots has less to do with field goal percentage and more to do with saving his legs for the long conference season, Horizon League Tournament and, fingers crossed, a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Distance is not the problem with missing shots. It’s mechanics.

For most of his career, Arians almost hopped into passes in his catch-and-shoot form. This set form allowed him, through muscle memory, to square up with the basket and swish the shot from damn near anywhere. Hitting threes was second nature because repetition made it so.

Lately, however, Arians has looked rushed going up for the shot. It’s almost like he’s anticipating a closing defender and wants to get the ball off as quick as possible.

This takes him out of his rhythm, something that can really mess with a shooter. No deliberate hop into the pass means he’s not squaring up, which is pushing his shot off-line. Whether the shot is short or off-center is irrelevant; he’s not hitting them because he’s getting away from muscle memory.

Once Arians gets back to that, he’ll be fine. In the meantime, I’d push for him to shoot closer to better manage his stamina over the course of the season, work on getting back to muscle memory, and mix in more of his excellent cuts to the basket.

More than anything, though, Arians should shoot. Shoot, shoot, and keep shooting young man.

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