By The Associated Press
Missouri's Marcus Denmon shoots over Texas Tech's Kevin Wagner on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012 at Mizzou Arena. Denmon made only one of his six 3-point shots. (Photo by Karen Mitchell)
Marcus Denmon’s shooting touch has been as under the weather as the Missouri guard.
Denmon’s voice was hoarse and he appeared a bit bleary-eyed from a cold after the second-ranked Tigers’ tougher-than-expected 63-50 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday. Certainly, his marksmanship could use a dose of vitamin C.
The senior guard, one of the Big 12’s proven go-to offensive threats for a couple of seasons, has been misfiring for much of January, hitting at a sickly 31 percent clip over the last four games.
Good thing for Missouri, he’s found a lot of other ways to help.
Denmon is second on the team in rebounding. He’s a deadeye from the free throw line, hitting all 10 attempts Saturday. He had no turnovers, contributed three steals and ill or not, played 35 minutes.
“Some nights it doesn’t go your way,” Denmon said. “But making shots at the free throw line or playing good defense or affecting the game in other ways helps us win.”
First-year coach Frank Haith is confident the shots will start falling again and Denmon, who’s third on the school’s career list with 600 3-pointers, will be a complete player again.
“The best shooters in America have slumps,” Haith said. “He’s no different from anybody who’s a really good shooter. I think if you ask a great shooter ‘What do you do to get yourself out of one?’ you just keep practicing.”
So, there are no plans to retool Denmon’s stroke.
“I’m not going to make a bigger deal than it is,” Haith said. “He knows he’s not shooting well, so what do I need to talk to him about it for? All I need to do is continue to talk to him about taking good shots.”
Similarly, even though Missouri’s last two games have been far from pretty, Haith doesn’t see anything wrong with the team. The ranking is due for a hit after the upset at middle-of-the-pack Oklahoma State on Wednesday, and the close-than-expected win over Texas Tech, which is winless in conference play.
The Tigers (19-2, 6-2 Big 12) are back on the road at Texas on Monday night.
“It’s a long season, we’ve got a long way to go, we would not play flawless basketball all year,” Haith said “You’re coming off a tough loss; you knew this game was going to be a tough game.
“But we won, so that’s a great thing for us.”
Denmon was 4 for 15 overall against the Red Raiders, including an anemic 1 for 6 from 3-point range. He leads the Tigers with 55 3-pointers while connecting at 38 percent, but during his slump has made just five of 28 (18 percent) from beyond the arc.
The problem Saturday was execution, not shot selection.
“The shots I missed were all makeable shots, as well as my teammates’ shots that they missed,” Denmon said. “Coach has faith in me as well as my teammates, and they tell me to continue to take good shots, and that’s what I did.”
That’s what he’ll plan on doing Monday, too.
“If you’re a good shooter, you continue to take good shots,” Denmon said. “Coach always tells me and the rest of the guys, ‘If it’s a shot you work on and are comfortable in taking, I want you to take it 100 percent of the time if it’s a good shot.'”
While rehabbing his long-range jumper, Denmon is going for even better shots. He scored off the drive a couple of times against Texas Tech.
That’s something Haith encourages, but emphasizing it had nothing to do with any lack of confidence. Instead, he stressed the opportunities that he could create even if the shot didn’t feel right.
Perhaps it will alleviate some of the pressure.
“You say, ‘Look, just be aggressive. You’re a great free throw shooter. People will play your jump shot. Use that to get you other things,'” Haith said. “Shot fake and a nice 1-2 dribble getting in the paint could get you to the line. And you’re a 90 percent free throw shooter.'”