Foul Balls Plague Lions

Why is the Penn State basketball team stinking it up from the free throw line this year? Check out our photo analysis to see.

Why is the Penn State basketball team stinking it up from the free throw line this year, making just 60.3 percent of its shots? At least part of it is about technique.

The Nittany Lions, who went 17 of 36 from the stripe in a 76-73 home loss to Minnesota Saturday — including 1 of 10 in the final 6:14 — were generally flat-footed when they shot their free throws late in the game.

You can see evidence of that in our photo gallery below.

Many great free throw shooters, including NBA deadeye Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz (a career 88 percenter), go up on their toes while shooting foul shots, to get more energy from their legs.

While shooting flat-footed, most of the thrust comes from the arms, which tend to wear out at the end of games. It also leads to an abrupt end to the shooting motion, where going up on the toes tends to smooth things out (kind of like a shock absorber).

Not following what we are saying? Then try doing a free throw motion where you are now. Do one where your heels stay on the ground, then the next where you go up on your toes. You'll feel the difference.

There are other obvious issues for certain Penn State players, too, things that don't take a free-throw expert or even a basketball coach to notice.

Nittany Lion leading scorers Geary Claxton and Jamelle Cornley both have their unique demons, beyond the old flat-footed routine. The former is at 55.4 percent from the foul line on the season, the latter at 54.2. They have combined to miss 63 freebies on the season.

Claxton is not consistent with where he sets up on his shots. Sometime his toes nestle right up to the stripe. Other times they are a few inches behind it.

Cornley is a sidewinder. That is to say, he grips the ball from the side, and as such puts a sideways spin on it when shooting.

After Saturday's loss, Claxton said Penn State's issues with making free throws were mostly mental. While we don't doubt that some of the woes are in fact psychological, the following gallery suggests more fundamental problems.

Free Throw Gallery.


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