Thursday, December 27, 2012

3-pointers: Who takes 'em, who makes 'em

In honor of our favorite offensive weapon, here's (almost) everything you need to know about the players and teams that have really filled it up from distance so far this season.

The 40 Club
Players shooting at least 40 percent from 3-point range (minimum 1 make per game):

Janniina Koivunen, VCU (13 of 25, 52.6 percent)
Freshman native of Finland an excellent fit in coach Marlene Stollings' feel-free-to-let-it-fly style.

Rachael Bilney, Richmond (30 of 71, 42.3 percent)
The most prolific long-range shooter on a team loaded with them.

Ataira Franklin, Virginia (13 of 30, 43.3 percent). These numbers are no fluke - two years ago, then-freshman Franklin shot an ACC-leading 47.8 percent (43 of 90).

Devon Brown, Liberty (20 of 48, 41.7 percent): Just one of the areas where Brown, already a three-time first-team All-Big South selection, has ramped up her game for her final campaign. Brown shot just 24.1 percent from distance last season (28 of 116).

Janine Aldridge, William and Mary (25 of 61, 41 percent): The Tribe's single-season (92) and career (236) 3-point queen made a season-high 6 long-range shots in her last outing at North Carolina A&T.

Jackie Cook, Old Dominion (19 of 46, 41.3 percent)
Like Liberty's Brown, Cook, a 29.8 percent 3-point shooter her first three seasons, has taken it up a few notches as a senior.

Small sample, big production

Kaneisha Atwater, VCU (10 of 21, 47.6 percent)
Former Parade All-American and another freshman contributing quality minutes - and shots - for the new-look Rams.

Becca Wann, Richmond (11 of 22, 50 percent)
Doesn't matter what basketball (or soccer) list you come up with. If it's about something good, Wann's usually on there somewhere.

These guys are money, too

Chelsea Coward, Longwood: 22 of 57, 38.6 percent

Ayana Avery, Radford: 21-56, 37.5 percent

Kirby Burkholder, JMU: 25 of 78, 32.1 percent

The Launching Pad

Jessica Pellechio, VCU (45 of 131, 34.4 percent)
No Division I player in Virginia takes - or makes - more 3-pointers than the Rams' fearless freshman, who has attempted just 30 2-point shots (and only 2 out of her 32 field-goal attempts in her last three games). Pellechio's 3.75 triples per game ranks third in D-I, and she's made at least 4 in 8 of VCU's 12 games. The VCU record for 3s in a season is 94 by Anna Pavlikhina in 1991-92. At her current pace, Pellechio will eclipse that mark in VCU's 26th game - which just happens to be at Richmond on Feb. 20.

Should consider jacking a few more up

Aisha Foy, Radford (8 of 18, 44.4 percent)
Freshman played sparingly in her first six games but has made 8 of 17 triples in her last 3.

Rahneeka Saunders, George Mason (8 of 19, 42.1 percent)
Senior playmaker is just discovering how good she can be as a scorer.

LaKendra Washington, Libery (9 of 23, 39.1 percent)

Tiffany Minor, Old Dominion (4 of 10, 40 percent)

Pump fake and drive, perhaps?

Amber Easter, George Mason (3 of 27, 11.1 percent)
A terrific all-around player, Easter made 62 3-point shots in her first three seasons so this is a shot she can make. They're just not falling yet.

Nicole Hamilton, Hampton (12 of 61, 19.7 percent)
One of several Lady Pirates struggling from distance. Has otherwise done an exceptional job manning the Lady Pirates' vital point guard slot (5.1 assists per game).

Robyn Hobson, VCU (6 of 29, 20.7 percent)
A career 31 percent shooter, so it may be just a matter of time before that percentage improves.


For the sake of comparion, the Division I average 3-point percentage last season was 30.7, the lowest since the 3-point shot was instituted in 1987-88. The 2012-13 percentage leader through games of Dec. 23 is Duke (47.1)

1. Richmond (70 of 194, 38.0 percent)
Division I rank: 13th (of 343 teams)
In addition to Bilney and Wann, the presence of Sam Bilney (5 of 11, 45.5 percent), Kris King (33 percent), Lauren Tolson (30 percent), Ryan Dannelly (40 percent) and Amber Nichols (2 of 4, 50 percent) means Richmond has several good shooters on the floor at all times.

2. William and Mary (61-167, 36.5 percent)
Division I rank: 30
Like Richmond, lots of 3-point options led by Aldridge, Taylor Hilton (44 percent) and Kyla Kerstetter (33.3 percent). Even the bigs (Jaclyn McKenna 7-16; Emily Correal 3 of 6) have long-range accuracy.

3. VCU (87 of 251, 34.7 percent)
Division I rank: 53
If Koivunen, Atwater or Pellechio don't burn you from deep, Carleeda Green (34.5 percent) might make you pay instead.

4. Radford (55 of 170, 32.4)
Division I rank: 88
We've mentioned Aisha Foy and Ayana Avery, and there's also senior Ashley Buckhannon (19 of 59, 30.5 percent), who just moved into third place on the school's all-time 3-point chart. Apparently if you're first name begins with 'A' at Radford, you've got long-range skills.

5. Virginia (38 of 126, 30.2 percent)
Division I rank: 158
The much-improved Kelsey Wolfe (11 of 36, 30.6 percent) joins Franklin as the Cavaliers' chief long-distance threats.

6. Liberty (63 of 210, 30.0 percent)
Division I rank: 169
While the Lady Flames have several players capable of making the 3-ball, all are pretty judicious when it comes to attempts. Seven players have attempted at least 13, but only Brown has tried more than 33.

7. JMU (45 of 151, 29.8 percent)
Division I rank: 177
Everyone knows about Nikki Newman's defense, but the senior had also quietly transformed herself into the Dukes' best percentage 3-point shooter (8 of 24, 33 percent) before going down indefinitely with a broken foot. In her first start of the season, freshman Precious Hall showed she may be capable of replacing some of the firepower JMU loses without Newman by connecting on 3 of 8 3-pointers during a breakout 16-point performance on Dec. 21 against American.

8. Longwood (76 of 260, 29.2 percent)
Division I rank: 207
They can't match Coward for percentage shooting, but Crystal Smith (19 3s), Mieke Elkington (14) and Raven Williams (9) are all capable of heating up from the outside.

9. Old Dominion (49 of 169, 29.0 percent)
Division I rank: 217
Cook's been terrific, Minor has produced in limited attempts, and Stephanie Gardner has made 2 of 4 since becoming eligible three games ago. Still, as a team ODU has struggled from distance in several games this season. Add in the fact that the Lady Monarchs rank 38th in D-I in 2-point field goal percentage and they may be playing into opponents' hands by settling for so many deep balls.

10. Norfolk State (27 of 104, 27.9 percent)
Division I rank: 239
Ebony Brown and Kashay Barnes are a combined 26 of 94 (27.7 percent). Everyone else on the active roster is a combined 0 for 6. This is one of the areas where the loss of guard Rae Corbo (ACL injury) is most glaring. Corbo was a 33.3 percent 3-point shooter last season and hit 3 of 4 bombs this year before going down late in NSU's second game of the season.

11. Virginia Tech (27 of 100, 27.0 percent)
Division I rank: 259
To their credit, the Hokies know this isn't their game as they jack up fewer 3s than any team on this list save George Mason. Ironically, in their second game of the season the Hokies produced one of top 3-point performances anywhere as they made 9 of 17 in a 3-point victory over Appalachian State. They haven't made more than four in any game since, though, and have had two games where they haven't made any.

12. George Mason (21 of 85, 24.7 percent)
Division I rank: 299
Through her first two seasons, sharpshooter Christine Weithman made 45 3-pointers on 39.1 percent shooting. But Weithman has not played this season, and without her the Patriots simply don't fool with long-range shooting a great deal. Given their percentage, that's probably a good idea.

13. Hampton 45 of 211, 21.3 percent)
Division I rank: 336
The couple of times we've seen the Lady Pirates, we came away believing they have at least four players that are good bets from long range. These numbers say otherwise, though, at least so far. So it could be that, for all the great things All-American point guard Jericka Jenkins provided for Hampton over the past four years, the player they actually miss most is shooting guard Choicetta McMillian, who ranked 14th in Division I in 3-pointers per game last season. With McMillian leading the way, Hampton ranked 63rd in 3-point percentage in 2011-12.

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