Simp­son’s arc scru­ti­nized

Beilein look­ing at ways to fix guard’s 3-point shoot­ing

The Detroit News - - College Basketball - BY JAMES HAWKINS The Detroit News

Michi­gan coach John Beilein knows a thing or two when it comes to 3-point shoot­ing.

He also knows a bad shooter when he sees one and he’s adamant junior guard Zavier Simp­son doesn’t fall un­der that cat­e­gory.

“I’m a shoot­ing guy and I’ve coached some poor shoot­ers and know when that ball goes out of their hand, it’s not go­ing in,” Beilein said on WBBL’s Grand Rapids-based “The Huge Show” on Thurs­day. “And when the ball is com­ing out of Zavier’s hand right now, I think it’s go­ing in. I’ve never seen so many in-and­outs in my life — I’m talk­ing prac­tice, games, shoot­ing drills.”

In Tues­day’s win at North­west­ern, Simp­son had plenty of suc­cess at­tack­ing the bas­ket in the first half. But when the Wild­cats switched up their de­fen­sive game plan and turned him from a driver into a shooter, he didn’t have much suc­cess.

Simp­son missed all five of his 3-point at­tempts in the sec­ond half, in­clud­ing three con­sec­u­tive long-range shots over a 62-sec­ond span when Michi­gan held a 51-49 lead and North­west­ern de­fend­ers sagged off him and dared him to shoot.

It led to Beilein re­plac­ing Simp­son with sopho­more guard Eli Brooks down the stretch, and Brooks came through with a huge 3-pointer when Michi­gan’s of­fense was strug­gling to score.

Beilein said Simp­son took the bench­ing in stride and as bad as he wanted to check him­self back in, Simp­son knew ex­actly why that didn’t hap­pen un­til North­west­ern’s fi­nal of­fen­sive possession.

“We were play­ing four on five. We were re­ally in a drought and we needed to open the court a lit­tle bit,” Beilein said. “I don’t know if Jor­dan (Poole) gets to the rim both times if he’s out there be­cause Eli Brooks is spac­ing peo­ple and he knows it. If he re­acted poorly, I’d be ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed, but I wouldn’t care be­cause we have to do what’s best for Michi­gan.”

Af­ter Tues­day’s per­for­mance, Simp­son’s 3-point shoot­ing dropped to 22.7 per­cent (5for-22) this sea­son and 27.2 per­cent (34-for-125) for his ca­reer. He hasn’t made a 3-pointer in the past five games — he didn’t at­tempt one against Prov­i­dence or Chattanooga — and he has missed his last nine at­tempts.

Beilein said he’s turn­ing to an­a­lyt­ics and study­ing Simp­son’s launch an­gle, with a fo­cus on the back end of his shoot­ing arc, to try to find out why his 3point shots aren’t fall­ing.

“Where is the high point of his arc? That’s what I’m look­ing at, and we’ll see if we can back it off and have the higher point be ear­lier so that it comes down at a dif­fer­ent rate,” Beilein said. “There’s some­thing hap­pen­ing. There’s just too many times it looks right on top of the rim like it’s go­ing to go in and it doesn’t.”

North­west­ern’s sec­ond-half strat­egy for Simp­son was a first for Michi­gan this sea­son. And while it might lead to fu­ture foes im­ple­ment­ing a sim­i­lar plan, Beilein likened the sit­u­a­tion to Lak­ers point guard Ra­jon Rondo, a ca­reer 31.1-per­cent 3-point shooter.

Beilein said Rondo has never been known as a shooter dur­ing his 13 sea­sons in the NBA, but his teams find other ways to get him open and uti­lize him on of­fense, like be­ing used as a ball screener.

“I think ev­ery team is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent now be­cause when you do play off you al­low him (Simp­son) to get down­hill and you al­low him to run any­thing that we want to run. There’s more to that then what you think,” Beilein said. “It re­ally didn’t sur­prise me, but it’s a rid­dle that we’ll fin­ish. Also, when the sit­u­a­tion is right we ex­pect him to make those shots, too.”

Simp­son said the con­fi­dence in his jumper hasn’t wa­vered de­spite the re­cent slump, not­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween this sea­son and last sea­son is he’s not de­terred af­ter a cou­ple misses.

“Last year, I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have shot them. And they felt good, so it’d be dif­fer­ent if they felt bad. At least three or four I thought for sure was go­ing in,” Simp­son said. “There’s too much hard work and ded­i­ca­tion be­hind this, it’s go­ing to fall sooner or later.”

Simp­son added he can’t see him­self miss­ing five straight 3point at­tempts if teams de­cided to guard him like North­west­ern did.

“That hap­pens again I feel like I’m go­ing to make them,” he said. “It may be 0-for-5 (from 3point range), next game maybe 2-for-5, but one of these days it might be 5-for-5.”

With that in mind, Beilein said the best course of ac­tion for now is to press on with Simp­son.

“We just keep work­ing on his shoot­ing. It’s the eas­i­est thing rather than try and change ev­ery­thing,” Beilein said. “We got to have things in place, whether it’s sub­sti­tu­tions … but right now we’re not giv­ing up on that.”

Lon Hor­wedel/Spe­cial to Detroit News

Xavier Simp­son has had suc­cess driv­ing to the bas­ket, but shoot­ing from the out­side is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter.

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