Fort Wayne has to find its consistent shooting stroke

Fort Wayne guard Kason Harrell prepares to shoot a free throw during a recent game against South Dakota at Memorial Coliseum. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Fort Wayne men's basketball coach Jon Coffman speaks with assistants John Peckinpaugh (left) and Ryan Sims during a timeout against South Dakota in a recent game at Memorial Coliseum. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Fort Wayne guard John Konchar follows through on a free throw in a recent game against South Dakota at Memorial Coliseum. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)

There are a number of areas of play that have concerned Fort Wayne men’s basketball coach Jon Coffman at various times in his tenure with the Mastodon program, but generally speaking, offensive accuracy and production usually don’t rank near the top of those.

If there is anything that Fort Wayne has become known for in recent seasons, it is having the ability to shoot, score, and push the basketball right at the opposition.

Coffman’s team still is doing so this season, but not consistently of late.

Over the past eight games, the Mastodons (14-9, 3-3 Summit League) haven’t shot the ball consistently well from beyond the arc, and from the field overall, that dilemma has stretched over the past seven games.

“That is not who we are,” Coffman said following a recent loss to South Dakota in which his team shot 35 percent overall and a meager 15 percent from long range. “The exciting part is that I believe in numbers and numbers play out.”

They have for Fort Wayne, but it has just been in every other game.

The Mastodons shot the ball very well in their most recent game, which resulted in a rallying victory against North Dakota State. But recent history doesn’t bode well for Fort Wayne’s upcoming road test at South Dakota State on Saturday (ESPN3, 5:15 p.m.).

Since a Dec. 30 win over Concordia (Mich.), the Mastodons have alternated good and bad offensive outings; which clearly explains why the wins and losses have also alternated.

Fort Wayne shot 52.9 percent against Concordia, but came back with a 33.8 percent outing in a road loss at Oral Roberts.

Just 48 hours later, the Mastodons connected on 49.2 percent of their shots at Denver and won, but then responded with the poor offensive performance against South Dakota.

A 40 percent (from 3) game lifted Fort Wayne past Omaha, but a 33 percent game at Western Illinois allowed it to lose in the final seconds.

And on and on and on it has gone.

“We’ve got really, really good shooters,” Coffman said. “You look at John Konchar and Kason Harrell, who go 1 for 11 (from 3-point range against South Dakota), that doesn’t happen.”

The problem is that it IS happening.

Konchar (a 44.1 percent career 3-point shooter) is making just 22.2 percent of his 3-pointers over the past six games, while Harrell (39.8 percent for his career) is connecting on just 27.7 percent over the past eight. However, both bounced back with really nice outings against the Bison Saturday.

Harrell made 9 of his 13 shots (including six 3-pointers) and finished with 26 points, while Konchar hit half of his four attempts from long range.

That level of play has to continue if the Mastodons want to finish in (or at least near) the top echelon of the conference.

“Kason is getting good looks,” Coffman said. “He’s had stretches this year where has taken a tough one or two to start, but the tough part about when you get into league play is people know your personnel. They take you out of what you do.”

That is true, but it doesn’t excuse inconsistent performances by Fort Wayne or the inconsistent success. A team has to figure those types of obstacles out and overcome them.

If Fort Wayne doesn’t want to finish at or near .500 in the conference for the third time in Coffman’s four seasons, a consistent ability to shoot the ball well is going to have to be found quickly.

The Mastodons have eight remaining games and split them evenly between home and away. However, three of those four road games are in the Dakotas, which is always challenging for Fort Wayne.

“You’ve got to really, really stack details,” Coffman said after the South Dakota loss, “to be in a game when you shoot that poorly.”

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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