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women’s basketball: Cincinnati at No. 3 UConn, Wednesday, 7 p.m. (SNY) Collier frustrated by her inconsistent shooting

January 9, 2019

HOUSTON — UConn forward Napheesa Collier spent this past summer working on her shot. More specifically, she focused on tweaking her form so she’d have a smoother, more consistent release on every attempt.

“I try to get my 3 the same as my 15 (footer),” Collier explained Sunday following an 81-61 victory over Houston at the Fertitta Center.

While Collier’s on her way to having her best season in numerous categories for the No. 3 team in the country, including rebounds (10.4) and assists (3.6), she’s yet to see a full return on her offseason work. Curiously, her shooting percentages are down across the board from last year.

And now, Collier is trying to figure out why.

“The only thing I tried to change was my 3,” she said. “It’s just the form of it. It feels a lot better than it used to. I’m shooting less. Obviously, they’re going in when I’m practicing, so just keep shooting in games and eventually they’ll start falling.”

Through 13 games as a senior, Collier has shot 57.2 percent from the field (22.2 percent on 3-pointers) and a career-low 64.9 percent from the free-throw line, a slight dip from last season when she was a third-team All-American (58.3, 34.4, 78.6).

The 6-foot-1 Collier has been strong in the paint, as evidenced by her eight double-doubles, but she admitted to being frustrated by her inconsistency along the perimeter.

“It is frustrating because when I’m practicing they’re all going in and when I’m in the gym and shooting, they’re going in,” she said. “And then I get to the game and they’re not. I just have to have faith that they’re going to start dropping, and just keep shooting.”

Added coach Geno Auriemma: “I think this year, she just hasn’t gotten into any kind of a flow. So, she doesn’t really have that same feel that she had in the past. How do you fix that? You go in the gym and you shoot a bunch of shots, you watch yourself on film.

“Shooting’s a funny thing. When you’re confident, you think the basket’s as big as an ocean and when you’re not, you don’t ever think the ball’s going in. Everybody goes through it. It’s not unusual, but for us it’s tough because we don’t have a lot of scorers to begin with. We really need her. That’s a huge part of our offense, her perimeter shooting.”

Collier, averaging 18.4 points, finds herself second on the Huskies in scoring behind Katie Lou Samuelson (19.4). As the season progresses, Collier’s accuracy from deep will continue to be a point of focus not just for the Huskies, but for teams interested in selecting her in April’s WNBA Draft.

The forward turned in one her most efficient shooting performances this season (18 points on 7-of-10 shooting) in the AAC opener against Houston, though she did commit six turnovers. It came on the heels of a tough night against Baylor, in which Auriemma criticized the Huskies’ aggressiveness — or lack thereof — on offense.

“She spent a lot of time shooting it in practice the last couple days,” Auriemma said. “It’ll take some time. She just doesn’t have a lot of confidence in it right now, but that’ll come, that’ll come. Every player goes through it at some point.”

Shooters are streaky. Auriemma believes Collier is no exception.

“I think it’ll be back to where it was before,” he said. “It just needs some time.”

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour

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