It's hardly news that Syracuse isn't a particularly good shooting team from outside or the free-throw line.
That was made abundantly clear in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. championship game last spring, when Syracuse made just 11 of 20 free throws and Derrick Coleman missed the first shot of a one-and-one with 26 seconds remaining and Syracuse ahead by one. The game ended, of course, in a 74-73 Indiana victory.
This season, the Orangemen are as nearsighted as ever. They are shooting 52.6% from the field, but most of their shots are from inside.
And the free-throw percentage? An even 60%.
At one point this season, if you subtracted the free throws of Matt Roe, Syracuse's best shooter, the team's free-throw percentage was exactly the same as its field-goal percentage.
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse coach, has come to accept his team's difficulties.
"We're not going to beat anybody with our free-throw shooting," he said. "We'll just have to concentrate on other things."
In an interesting display of self-knowledge, the Orangemen--who were ranked as the preseason No. 1 team but started the season 2-2 with losses to North Carolina and Arizona-- made some adjustments that have helped keep them undefeated since the end of November.
Most noticeable is the appearance of Roe in the starting lineup as an outside threat. Roe, a sophomore from nearby Manlius, N.Y., who averaged less than a point a game last season, replaced Earl Duncan at guard after the Arizona loss, and has started ever since.
Duncan, the highly regarded graduate of St. Monica High School in Santa Monica who sat out under Proposition 48 last season, had struggled in the early going and still is making only 36.1% of his shots from the floor.
Roe serves as the Orangemen's designated hitter. He is shooting a mere 48.4% from the field, but 68 of his 95 shots have been three-pointers. He has made 33 of those. And, he is making 84% of his free throws.
Another player who knows his role is Herman Harried, a 6-foot 7-inch forward. Apparently, the rule for him is layup, dunk or don't shoot. Before this season, he was shooting 42.7% from the field and 39.6% from the line. This season, he has shot just 34 times in 145 minutes--sure things, in other words. But nothing has changed at the line, where he is shooting 30.4%.
There apparently is nothing that can be done to change one situation. Rony Seikaly, averaging just 56.3% from the line, is the team's most fouled player. To date, he has made 54 of 96 free throws.
Syracuse's good-to-acceptable free-throw shooters: Roe, 84%; Sherman Douglas, 77.8%; Duncan, 74%; and Los Angeles Crenshaw High's Stephen Thompson, 61.3%. The bad: Coleman, 57.9%; Seikaly, 56.3%; Keith Hughes, 52.2%; Derek Brower, 41.1%; and Harried, 30.4%.
The folks in Laramie, Wyo., may know plenty about basketball, but when they shouted and jeered at Georgia State's Willie Brown while he was on the free-throw line during the Panthers' game against the Cowboys last month, it was clear there was something they didn't know about Brown.
He is deaf.
Brown, a junior, is the starting center for Georgia State. Against Wyoming, he had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
He also made six of seven free throws.
"They made all kinds of noise when he shot free throws," said Davis Fisher, assistant sports information director at Georgia State. "At home, everybody knows, and people in the stands hold up flash cards with his name on them when he makes a rebound or something."
That one free throw Brown missed at Wyoming?
"The San Diego chicken was there," Fisher said. "And the chicken held up a poster of an ugly-looking girl, and Willie did fine. Then he held up a poster of a nice-looking girl. He missed."
Brown held his own against Eric Leckner in the Wyoming game, an 100-89 Cowboy victory. Against Oklahoma last month, Brown scored 15 points in Georgia State's 124-81 loss.
Brown, who averages 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, gets by some of the difficulties resulting from his deafness with the help of Carter Wilson, an assistant coach who relays plays from the bench by sign language.
One thing that sometimes causes problems: Picks. Players usually call to teammates to warn them when they are about to be screened, and Brown often doesn't get the message.
Brown came to Georgia State largely because of Wilson, who has worked in a Georgia basketball camp for the deaf run by Mike Glenn, who played for the Atlanta Hawks during his National Basketball Assn. career. Glenn's father coached at the Georgia School for the Deaf in Cave Springs, Ga.
Brown, a graduate of the Georgia School for the Deaf, went to Hofstra his first two years, then transferred to Georgia State. He became eligible this season after sitting out last season.
Hecklers, be forewarned. Mere noise can't shake Brown at the line. He is making 78% of his free throws, 32 of 41.