Creighton guard Isaiah Zierden noticed a slight look of disdain on Toby Hegner’s face after his teammate banked in a 3-point shot Saturday against Seton Hall.
As they raced back on defense, Zierden shouted words of encouragement at Hegner.
“I yelled, ‘They all count,’ ’’ Zierden said. “It might look awful, but as a shooter you have to think, ‘Now I have it going, and the next one is going in, too.’ ’’
Unfortunately for the Bluejays, the 3-point shots they were making in nonconference play aren’t falling with the same frequency in the first nine games of Big East play.
After converting 40.1 percent of its 3-point attempts in 13 nonconference games, Creighton shot 31.0 percent from beyond the arc while going 5-4 in the first half of its league schedule.
“These guys have proven over the test of time that they can shoot the ball,’’ coach Greg McDermott said, “but we’re in a little bit of funk right now.’’
That beyond-the-arc funk is eye-popping when comparing the Bluejays’ five wins to their misfires in the four losses.
In the wins, Creighton made 42 of 110 3-point attempts for 38.2 percent. That goes down to 22.2 percent (20 of 90) in the four losses.
“Basketball is about playing with confidence, and we’re lacking some of that right now,’’ Hegner said, “but we’re always going to be a shooting team. We can’t get away from what we’re good at.’’
In spite of the recent struggles, Creighton still leads the Big East in both field-goal percentage (.475) and 3-point field-goal percentage (.365). In conference games only, the Bluejays’ standing drops to sixth (.444) and seventh (.310).
“I still believe we’re a good shooting team that’s going through a tough stretch,’’ McDermott said. “I base that off how well we shot in the first 13 or 14 games of the season.
“It’s really the same shots by the same people, but we’ve had some pretty open ones that we’re missing. When you get an open one, you have to knock it down.’’
McDermott learned long ago that a fine line exists when trying to steer a team out of a shooting slump.
“You can’t expect to keep doing the same things and expect different results,’’ he said. “Sometimes you have to change up practice routines. Sometimes a simple, subtle change can make a huge difference in getting your confidence back.
“At the same time, you also don’t want it to become such a cloud in their minds that they’re thinking about it every time they put a shot up.’’
Zierden leads the Big East in 3-point field goals with 57, his .393 percentage ranking seventh in the league. He shot 41.3 percent from beyond the arc in nonconference play but has slipped to 36.9 percent in Big East games.
Five other teammates who have shot at least 29 3-point attempts have experienced similar declines.
“We’re thinking too much about it, worrying about it and not having fun,’’ Zierden said. “The more we worry about our shots not falling, the less they are going to go in.
“It’s a matter of just trying to keep the confidence high and worrying about it less.’’
Hegner made 43.8 percent of his 3-point attempts in nonconference play but has slipped to 31.3 in Big East games. As have many of his teammates, Hegner has spent extra time shooting before and after practices.
“We’re definitely trying to work our way back to shooting the ball the way we know we can,’’ Hegner said. “It’s a matter of getting repetitions.
“The thing is, shooters know what they’re doing right and wrong. You try to change your routine a bit, and you can change your form a little bit, but it still comes back to shooting with confidence.’’
In trying to analyze some of the recent struggles, Zierden looks at his success from the free-throw line. He leads the team in making 88.9 percent from the line.
“My free throws have still been good,’’ Zierden said. “It’s just a matter of doing something a little different when I take three steps back.’’
Most times, he said, it’s a minor adjustment such as getting a little more leg into a shot or a little more arc on it.
The major thing is not to panic, he said.
“Some people might say it’s broke so you have to do something to fix it,’’ Zierden said. “We shot the ball well at the start of the year. We’re doing something wrong, and we need to figure it out so that we can get back to normal.’’
Contact the writer: