Shoot less, drive more

The numbers behind Jeremy Harris’ shooting woes

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Buffalo loves to shoot from three. Every player on the men’s basketball starting lineup can shoot from deep and there is no question as to why they do it so much. They’re number 23 in the nation for three-point attempts this season with 629 attempts.

There’s just one problem: the Bulls are below average from three this season.

Buffalo’s offense has pushed the Bulls to a 19-3 record and 13-straight weeks ranked in the Top-25 poll. Buffalo has dropped nine spots in the poll in two weeks with losses to Bowling Green and Northern Illinois. The Bulls haven’t had a reliable second option on offense the entire season and need senior forward Jeremy Harris to step up if they want to remain a top team in the country.

“He has to stay aggressive and trust the work he's put in,” said head coach Nate Oats. “This isn't the first time he's gone through a slump. He had a bad start to last year and this year. Then he came out of it. For some reason, he's gotten into slumps in the past and he has to shoot his way out of it.”

Outside of the two freshmen Ronaldo Segu and Jeenathan Williams, Harris has the worst field goal percentage on the Bulls at .403. His shooting struggles were evident in the past seven games.

Harris exploded for a career-high 34 points against Toledo on Jan. 8. Every shot he put up that night found its way into the hoop. Harris finished making 13-19 shots and 6-10 from three, both season highs for made baskets.

The forward has since failed to shoot over 50 percent in a game. Harris has only made eight of his last 32 shots, including 1-18 from three. He’s failed to score 10 points in each of those games.

“He has a quick release and plays a position in our league, the four, where he almost always has a mismatch,” said Kent State coach Rob Senderoff. “He has good size, he’s a lefty and he doesn’t only shoot threes because he has the ability to beat you off the bounce as well. With all that said, it seems like he never misses a three when he is open.” 

Harris was 3-10 for 9 points against Kent State.

This isn’t the first time Harris has been in a slump this season. He started the year slow before finally hitting his stride against Milwuakee and posting his first 20-point performance of the season.

Harris’ slow start could be attributed to an overuse injury on his wrist, which required him to receive a cortisone shot. Harris denied that the injury affected his recent performance, stating, “I’m just off right now.”

The struggles are surprising for someone who was ranked as a top shooter in the country by Jeff Goodman earlier this season. Oats isn’t as surprised.

“Shooters go through slumps,” Oats said. “That's just what it is. Screw it, shoot the ball.”

Part of the reason for Harris’ shooting struggles can be attributed to his shot locations. Harris took more three-point shots than twos this season.

Harris takes the majority of his shots from above the break. He is just 13-46 or 28 percent from that area. Senior guard CJ Massinburg, comparitvely, is 22-42 or 52 percent from the same location.*

Harris, when taking three-point shots from NBA distance, remains the same at 28 percent while Massinburg is an even 50 percent.

The comparisons between the two are skewed this season as Harris only shoots .291 from three and Massinburg shoots .420, but Harris was able to shoot 41.8 from three last season.

“I'm always going to know what I can do and never will forget who I am,” Harris said. “I'm either going to go 0 for something or do really well. I'm always going to shoot when I'm open.”

Harris has no reason to not shoot when he is open. Coaches and teammates all give him a “green light” to shoot. Harris, in practice on Monday, pulled up for a midrange jumper and transfer forward Gabe Grant called “game” from the sidelines. 

The shot missed but teammates know what kind of player Harris is.

The Bulls have a week off between games and have the opportunity to regroup and fix the “fragmented” parts of the offense and defense, Oats said.

Buffalo needs Harris to find his shooting stroke and put on performances like he did against Arizona in the NCAA tournament last season.

*These stats do not include games against Saint Francis and Milwaukee 

Nathaniel Mendelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.comand on Twitter @NateMendelson