Making The Most Of Free Throws
AMES, Iowa – When it comes to free throws, well, they are free. That doesn’t mean they are a sure thing. Far from it, in fact. The 342 women’s basketball teams not named Iowa State shot just 68.4 percent percent from the line this season.
The 2012-13 Iowa State women’s basketball team was an anomaly.
This group of Cyclones could shoot it, hitting at an NCAA high clip of 80.5 percent. Entering this season, just 12 Division I teams had shot over 80 percent from the line in a season with Utah State (80.1) joining the Cyclones above that mark this season.
The 80.5 percent shooting also led all men’s teams. So of 688 NCAA Division I teams, nobody shot it better from the charity stripe than the Cyclones.
Much of the success can be attributed to hard work and embracing the process according to head coach Bill Fennelly.
“The free-throw percentage of our team this season is truly an amazing accomplishment,” Fennelly said. “To be one of only 14 teams ever and the first Big 12 team to shoot over 80 percent is a tribute to the hard work of our players.”
Iowa State, which broke the previous Big 12 record of 79 percent set by Missouri in 2007, had six players shoot at least 80 percent. Junior Hallie Christofferson led the way and was second in the Big 12 shooting 86.2 percent. Christofferson had consecutive free throws made streaks of 22 and 26 this season.
She was hardly the only Cyclone to have success at the line as four of Iowa State’s top six in minutes shot over 80 percent. Chelsea Poppens was fourth in the Big 12 shooting 83.7 percent and Nikki Moody also ranked among the Big 12’s top-10 players at 80.7 percent.
No player is a testament as to where hard work can get you like Poppens.
The Aplington, Iowa native struggled mightily at the line as a freshman, hitting on just 62.7 percent of her attempts. Through her career, the percentage rose steadily to 65.4 percent as a sophomore and 71.3 percent as a junior. This season, she became a player that you hoped the opposing teams would foul as she was nearly automatic.
“Pop is a great example of the effort that our team put into becoming a great free-throw shooting team,” Fennelly said. “To be able to raise your percentage by over 20 percent from the time she got on campus is very impressive.”
Perhaps most impressive was that when the Cyclones really had to make free throws, they did just that. In the last five minutes of games, the Cyclones hit at an 82.8 percent clip. Christofferson and Moody shot 90.9 and 91.2 percent during that stretch and as a group ISU’s top six shot 83.9 percent.
Making free throws down the stretch is a big deal in a league in which games are often times decided in the closing moments.
“We shot a ton of free throws in practice and our players embraced the concept that it would be a key to us winning close games all year long and that was certainly the case,” Fennelly said.
That is evident when looking at the fact that Iowa State’s opponents shot just 65.9 percent from the line. The Cyclones sank 4.7 more free throws per game than the opposition.
It is a shot that elicits groans from the crowd when it bounds off the rim and causes angst for coaches around the country.
Fortunately for those that followed the Cyclones, this team was among the most consistent ever to play the game when it came to making those free throws.
2012-13 Top Five NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball
1. Iowa State .805
2. Utah State .801
3. Notre Dame .798
4. IPFW .794
5. Marist .791
Top Five ISU Single-Season FT%
1. .805 (2012-13)
2. .758 (2003-04)
3. .750 (2004-05)
4. .744 (2006-07)
5. .740 (2000-01)
Top Five Big 12 Single-Season FT%
1. .805 Iowa State (2013)
2. .790 Missouri (2007)
3. .774 Colorado (2001)
4. .772 Oklahoma State (2013)
5. .769 Oklahoma (2011)