It's often amazing how careless many of the elite teams and players in college basketball are about shooting foul shots. You'd think stats-conscious players would work at that part of their game to take advantage of the opportunity for "free" points, but they don't.
I've seen numerous games this season where it was brick city from the line, and I mean close games between top teams. That's why it was almost refreshing to see Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell emphasize the importance of getting to the line for free throws to his team at halftime of the Seawolves' 70-59 victory over Hartford tonight.
After shooting only two foul shots in the first half, the Wolves attacked the basket in the second and were awarded 38 more foul shots. They ended up making 29 of 40 (72.5 percent) compared to Hartford's 5-of-10 performance. It was a stark example of what a difference good foul-shooting can make. Stony Brook had a 50-point second half after trailing, 23-20, at the break.
"We've been one of the best foul-shooting teams in the [America East] conference," Pikiell said. Clicking off the names of more than half his roster, Pikiell added, "A lot of them are good. It's a good sign we're attacking the rim…I think 38 foul shots must be a school record for one half."
After tonight's performance, Stony Brook is shooting 70.2 percent from the foul line. When I was in college in the Seventies, the 70-percent mark was considered the minimum standard to be good at the line. Now, that success rate is like the gold standard. But if Stony Brook (10-5, 2-0 America East) keeps attacking the basket and converting from the stripe, it's going to be an important factor for the Seawolves in putting together a successful season.
Plenty of other teams around here and even in the top 25 would do well to learn that lesson.