Dusty Hannahs couldn’t understand why the ball wouldn’t just fall through the net.
In the first half against West Virginia on Saturday, the freshman guard had four open looks behind the 3-point line, the sort of opportunities that have been in short supply since teams began drawing up scouting reports to combat his marksmanship after the start of Big 12 Conference play.
He made just one.
But the Little Rock, Ark., native kept firing in the second half, when he knocked down 3 of 4 long-range attempts, including two in the final two minutes that helped Tech nearly pull off an elusive road upset.
Welcome to the life of a shooter.
Even the best outside sniper in the college game this year, Virginia’s Joe Harris, a 49.2 percent 3-point shooter, has missed more than half of his attempts from that distance. Quickly erasing from your mind the shots that bounce off the rim as fast as the ones that fall through the net is a necessary function to keep frustration at bay.
“It’s a precision thing,” said Hannahs, whose Red Raiders (9-14, 2-10 in Big 12) will try to break a six-game losing streak when they host Oklahoma (16-8, 7-5) at 6 p.m. today. “A couple misses here and there, and you still have to keep your mind right.”
Predictably, Hannahs’ freshman season has been a roller-coaster ride, at times, as he adapts to the speed and physicality of the game at the college level. During a four-game stretch from the end of December to the Big 12 opener in January, he made 13 of 24 shots (54 percent) from behind the arc, including a 4-of-5 performance in a win against TCU to start league play.
But as teams began to scout Hannahs and the Red Raiders, outside shots became harder to find and were often far more contested. In losses to West Virginia, Kansas State and Baylor earlier this month, he went a combined 1 of 10 from the field and 0 of 6 from the perimeter.
Hannahs is fortunate enough to have someone to turn to who knows a thing or two about the fickle nature of sports. His father Gerald Hannahs pitched in the major leagues from 1976-79, a line of work in which one can go from shutting down the opposition to getting shelled in the span of two outings — or, heck, even a few innings.
So Gerald Hannahs speaks from experience when he speaks to his son about the importance of sticking to the process.
“I’ve always been a streaky shooter is what my dad would say, trying to make me feel better,” said Hannahs, who is averaging 6.6 points per game while shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range this season. “It’s happened a lot. It’s not as severe (in high school) as it is here. Once you go on a slump here, they’re on you tight. You’ve got to be hitting. My dad is who I’ve leaned on to keep me confident, just saying, ‘You’re going to be all right.’ It ended up being all right, but I don’t want to talk about it and jinx it.”
Indeed Hannahs has found his touch again of late, hitting a combined 7 of 15 3-pointers in Tech’s last two games. While teams have game-planned to stop Hannahs, the Tech coaching staff has also been hard at work developing new ways to free the team’s best shooter, evidenced by Saturday’s game against West Virginia in which nearly every one of his outside looks was largely uncontested.
Tech coach Chris Walker believes the freshman’s growth is about more than improving his precision behind the arc.
“I’ve been at games where Dusty was in high school and he scored 50 points in a game and didn’t make a 3-pointer,” Walker said. “So he can do other things. It’s just that he’s a freshman, and you want to keep him in a comfort zone. Sooner or later he’s going to have a bust-out game where he’s going to have 14 or 15 points and not make a three. He’s capable of doing it. It’s going to happen at some point.”
Hannahs has worked hard to expedite the arrival of such a performance. He has become more trusting of a pump fake and quick dribble to either drive past a defender or get him out of the way to create an open jump shot.
“He can get his defender off his feet and get to the hole,” teammate Jaye Crockett said of Hannahs. “He has a little floater. I always mess with him and call it ‘Floater Nation.’ He gets into the lane and does that floater, and it works for him. He just needs to get to the line a little more. I feel like he can be effective that way, get some guys in foul trouble.”
Finding ways to contribute, even if he dips into another outside shooting slump, is what Hannahs said he is focused on most as Tech enters the stretch run of its season.
“I’ve been trying to help the team by going to the rim, rebounding, playing defense,” Hannahs said, “other things besides (outside shooting), because I want to be able to bring more to the table than just that.”
Texas Tech had little answer for Romero Osby when the Red Raiders first faced Oklahoma in Norman on Jan. 16.
The senior forward scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, helping the Sooners turn a five-point halftime lead into an 81-63 win.
Performances like that have been common this season for Osby, who leads Oklahoma with 14 points and seven rebounds per game.
“He’s been hitting shots,” said Jaye Crockett, who will be one of the players tasked with guarding Osby. “Last year we just guarded him in the post; he was just a straight post guy. Now he can face up a little bit, take some guys off the dribble. They’ve got some plays for him where he just (isolates). That makes it pretty tough when you have to guard him inside and out.”
Tech coach Chris Walker said Clark Lammert (concussion), Daylen Robinson (coach’s decision) and Ty Nurse (undisclosed injury), players who missed all or most of Saturday’s game at West Virginia, will be available to play against Oklahoma.
Texas Tech has scored at least 60 points in two straight games for the first time since Feb. 26, 2011 (at Oklahoma) and March 3, 2011 (Oklahoma), breaking a string of 31 conference games without consecutive 60-point outings. ... Tech has faced nine teams in the top 50 of the RPI in its last 11 games. ... Oklahoma is one of six Big 12 teams currently within 21/2 games of first place in the league standings.
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