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When Threedom Isn’t Three

Keep it in perspective. Billy King struggled with layups.

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Clemson v North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 16: Theo Pinson #1 of the North Carolina Tar Heels shoots the ball against the Clemson Tigers on January 16, 2018 at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 87-79.
Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images

When a player, especially a starter, and most especially an upperclassman, struggles with a particular shot, home fans take notice. Usually the trouble involves making free throws or 3-pointers, the game’s most distinctive shots. You can also be lousy at making layups, but you don’t get to take many in a game or across a season.

Duke fans certainly recall the difficulties experienced at the foul line in recent years by Lance Thomas (.553 on 94 attempts) in 2009, or Greg Zoubek (.551 on 78 attempts) in 2010, or Mason Plumlee in 2011 (.441 on 93 tries) and 2012 (.528 on a wasteful 176), or Amile Jefferson’s .554 (92) in 2015.

A nervous trill would go through the Cameron crowd when any of those off-the-marksmen attempted a free throw, especially in the late going. If they made the shot, the cheers included a tangible element of relief.

For example, Duke worked hard to get Mason Plumlee to the line in 2012 – only semi-disciplined guard Austin Rivers had more free throw attempts (184). Neither was notably accurate, and one might argue the ’12 team did well to finish with a 27-7 record, with close losses to Temple, Maryland, Miami, FSU and, shockingly, Lehigh in the Devil’s NCAA opener.

John Henson was similarly cringe-inducing for a few years at the line for North Carolina, drawing supportive cries prior to shooting and great cheers upon converting in 2010 and 2011 when he failed to convert half his free throws. Once when he air-balled a free throw, even Henson laughed.

A similar crowd dynamic is at work this season whenever Tar Heel senior Theo Pinson lets fly from 3-point range. Knowing how inaccurate the do-it-all wing is from long distance, his conversion of his only three of the game in last weekend’s win over Georgia Tech drew a great cheer from the Carolina faithful.

Understandably. Among UNC players who averaged at least one 3-point attempt per game in which they appeared across a season, and played at least 10 minutes per outing, Pinson is the least accurate perimeter marksman in Roy Williams’ 15 years.

Worst Season 3-Point Accuracy by UNC Player Under Roy Williams
3% Player Year 3-3A Games Mins %FGA3
.156 Theo Pinson 2018 5-32 20 of 20 581 .241
.207 Larry Drew II 2011 6-29 21 (left) 479 .337
.208 Leslie McDonald 2010 11-53 34 of 37 350 .390
.222 J.P. Toyoto 2014 8-36 34 of 34 975 .136
.237 Theo Pinson 2017 9-38 21 of 40 500 .336
.244 Marcus Ginyard 2006 10-41 31 of 31 581 .238
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