North Carolina shot a respectable 72.3 percent from the line (34 of 47) in subduing Davidson the other day at the Smith Center. Free throw accuracy shouldn't vary much according to the opposition, but then a lot of things happen that shouldn't.
Perhaps the tide is turning - the Tar Heels now have a 61.3 percent conversion rate on the year (223-364), still worst in the ACC but a notable improvement. At this rate, if they make 106 straight foul shots they'll reach 70.0 percent.
UNC's victory came in overtime, reached when the Wildcats' best free thrower, guard Brian Sullivan, missed on two tries in the last 2:09 of regulation. So much for protecting a lead. Sullivan finished with a game-high 33 points, fueled by 7 of 14 accuracy on 3-pointers. But at the line, the sophomore was 4 of 8.
UNC forward James Michael McAdoo, the team leader in free throws made and attempted, was reasonable adept against Davidson, making 9 of 14 foul shots (.643). This after making a miserable 5 of 15 in a narrow home loss to Texas.
The performance against the Longhorns earned McAdoo plenty of unsolicited advice on how to improve his free throw acuity. He is, after all, making fewer than 60 percent for his career; three of his worst efforts this season came in Carolina losses.
"You've got the critics," the junior said. "What can you do to them? I can't hit them. I may want to, but I'm not trying to go to jail. You've just got to roll with it, man. It's just part of it."
McAdoo's attention-getting struggles at the foul line aren't the most pronounced at Chapel Hill. That distinction belongs to Jean-Pierre "J.P." Tokoto, the sophomore from Illinois who became a surprise starter in the absence of both Leslie McDonald and Samuel Peterson "P.J." Hairston Jr.
(By the way, and totally parenthetical to this chart, there are nine players on seven ACC teams this season who are known by their initials rather than their first names.)
Eight of the 11 somewhat frequent foul shooters making under 60 percent of their tries in 2013-14 are sophomores. Duke's Amile Jefferson is the least accurate, two-a-game foul-shooter in the league to this point. Wake's Madison Jones is worst among guards, not a recommendation for employing his ballhandling late in tight games.
Unhappily for Virginia, team leader Joe Harris, a .753 career free throw shooter entering this season, is hitting 54.8 percent at the line.
Worst 2013-14 Free Throw Accuracy Among Returning Players
(Listed By Current Season Free Throw Percentage, Minimum
Two Attempts Per Game Played Through Dec. 22, 2013)
|Player, School||Class||FT%||FT-FTA||Career |
|Amile Jefferson, D||So.||.300||9-30||34-71||.479|
|Charles Mitchell, M||So.||.381||16-41||43-92||.467|
|Joey van Zegeren, VT||So.||.393||11-28||36-83||.434|
|Michael Ojo, FS*||So.||.394||13-33||17-44||.386|
|Madison Jones, WF||So.||.412||14-34||36-79||.456|
|J.P. Tokoto, NC*||So.||.444||20-45||30-71||.423|
|Akil Mitchell, V||Sr.||.512||21-41||169-276||.612|
|Devin Thomas, WF||So.||.527||29-55||99-182||.544|
|Joe Harris, V||Sr.||.548||17-31||243-331||.734|
|James M. McAdoo, NC||Jr.||.558||59-104||218-371||.588|
|Brice Johnson, NC*||So.||.586||17-29||32-55||.582|
|* More than half of free throws attempted this season.|