Clutch At The Line

After a season of struggles in shooting the ball, West Virginia's playmaking point guard has made his presence felt in two critical late game free throw situations already this year.

Jarmon Durisseau-Collins quickly made a name for himself last year as both a protector and defender of the basketball, which earned the praise and trust of head coach John Beilein. The true freshman had just 27 turnovers in 770 minutes of action, which works out to one turnover for every 28.5 minutes of play. That's a remarkable statistic for any player, much less a true freshman making his debut in the Big East.

Durisseau-Collins also got mention for his defensive play, which, though not flashy, often helped the height-challenged Mountaineers by keeping opposing ball handlers from setting up the offense quickly. In taking valuable seconds off the shot clock, and keeping opposing point guards in check, Durisseau-Collins was perhaps the best overall defender on the team last year.

One place where Durisseau-Collins' play was lacking, however, was in shooting the ball. A respectable jump shooter in high school, Durisseau-Collins struggled so badly from the floor and free throw line that by the end of the year, he rarely shot the ball at all. His marks of 31.6% from the field and 46.2% from the free throw line were the biggest chinks in the otherwise solid armor of his game.

That's why it's been such a big surprise to see Durisseau-Collins knock down clutch free throws to preserve wins over Maryland and Duquesne in the past week. The Houston native coolly hit all four of his late game chances against the Terps, then duplicated that 4-4 performance against Duquesne in overtime to nail down WVU's fourth win of the young season.

Durisseau-Collins' crucial shots haven't been limited to the free throw line, either. His three-pointer just before halftime against St. Louis gave the Mountaineers an eight point lead in what had been a defensive struggle and gave West Virginia a huge momentum boost going into the second half.

The turnaround in Durisseau-Collins' shooting has been remarkable. So far this season, the Texan is shooting 61.5% from the field, has made four of his five three-point attempts, and is hitting a crisp 78.6% (11-14) from the free throw line. And while his season shot chart (8-13) looks more like a single game for some of his teammates, Durisseau-Collins has served notice that opposing defenders can't back off when he has the ball.

So, what led to this total reversal of fortune? Beilein, who is a shot doctor of some note, believes that a change in Durisseau-Collins' weightlifiting regimen had a great deal to do with it.

"He was one of those guys that when he started lifting weights, he became so tightly muscled that he wasn't able to make layups by the end of the year. He lost his flexibility. So, we, and Mike Barwis, changed his weightlifting to work on his flexibility."

Of course, a simple regimen change wasn't a magic potion that suddenly had the sophomore nailing shots from all over the floor. Durisseau-Collins put in long hours of work over the offseason on his shot.

"He came here as a solid shooter, not a Tyler Relph type, but a solid shooter," Beilein noted. "He lost that last year, and he's worked hard at it."

The early results of that work have been nothing but positive, as Durisseau-Collins is no longer a player that can be left unaccounted for on the offensive end of the floor. And while he's not likely to pour in points like Drew Schifino or Kevin Pittsnogle, WVU's starting point guard has served notice that he can be an offensive, as well as a defensive, weapon for the Mountaineers this year.

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