Charity Stripe Blues

One would be pressed to find a weakness in Mike Gansey's game. But, as is often the case, the easiest things sometimes seem the hardest for the most talented players.

The iron man who leads West Virginia in steals (33), field goal percentage (61.2) and three-point field goal percentage (48.6) and is second in scoring (18.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg) struggles with what should be the easiest shot in basketball via its label – the free throw.

Gansey has hit just 26 of 43 foul shots this season (60.5 percent), the lowest percentage of anybody on the team that has taken more than 10. He actually shoots better from the field than from the 15-foot line. That's a contrast to last year, when he made 57 of 81 (70.4 percent), including clutch free throws against Wake Forest and the game-clincher against Villanova in the Big East Tournament.

The then-junior went 12 of 16 (75 percent) in the Big East Tournament and 12 of 18 (66.6 percent) in the NCAAs. His best games were nine of 12 and three of four performances against Wake Forest and Louisville, respectively. Gansey didn't reach the free throw line against Syracuse or Creighton and missed both shots against Texas Tech.

"It seems I miss when we don't need it and make it when we do," Gansey said. "It's hard to simulate (the pressure of game free throws) it in practice. The game is much too different with the crowd there and the emotion. I just keep telling myself ‘It's going in, it's going in.'"

Though comparisons to Shaq are not yet warranted, Gansey's free throws are a cause of concern. John Beilein chooses to let it slide – like rebounding – not paying undue concern to it.

"He's a money player," Beilein said. "We design plays to get him the ball late in games, actually. We like to get it to Patrick (Beilein) and Kevin (Pittsnogle), but Mike is good."

Increasingly so. He started the season one for seven in the first three games and didn't reach the line against Kentucky or Louisiana State before getting jumpstarted by his former team. He hit all four of his shots versus St. Bonaventure.

The senior is 21 of 32 (65.6 percent) since and has hit six of 11 in Big East play. He went seven of nine versus Canisius and five for seven in the three games before that.

Gansey, who has scored in double figures in all but the Wofford game, has tried various motions and styles. He went from one dribble to three and back and changed the location of the ball and looking at the rim longer instead of shooting with one fluid motion and looking up at the last instant.

"I've tried. I can't see the ball well," Gansey said of his increased focus on the rim. "I just don't feel comfortable. I've tried a lot of stuff. I tried keeping the ball in front of my face, to the side. I was missing, so I never really gave myself a chance to see what worked. I changed too fast. I am sticking with the same particular motion now.

"And I miss long if anything, because I'd rather do that then be short and barely hit the rim. I am putting the arc on it."

Long at least gives the ball a shot at rimming in. The arc will give it a chance for a soft bounce.

"I came in early to shoot (Friday)," he said. "Maybe I can make just two more in a game with extra practice. Eventually it will go."


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