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Lawrence wishes for more swishes

Monday, January 21, 2008 | 9:42 p.m. CST; updated 12:25 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Missouri guard Matt Lawrence has struggled to find his 3-point shooting touch.

COLUMBIA — After the Missouri men’s basketball team’s practice on Monday, the few members of the Tigers that were lingering on Norm Stewart Court got to hear a sound that has become rare lately.

The swish of a Matt Lawrence 3-pointer.

Lawrence was putting in extra work, trying to regain the consistent 3-point shooting he had become known for last season.

Lawrence went to five spots beyond the 3-point line, the two corners, the two wings and the top of the key and hoisted shots from each spot.

When he was done, he was sweaty for the second time.

This season, Lawrence’s 3-point shooting has been hot or cold. He hasn’t found that nice, average game often, and lately, he has been cold more than he has been hot.

When the shots fall for Lawrence, they come in bunches. He went 4-for-7 against Arkansas, 5-for-11 against California and 6-for-11, en route to a career-high 28 points against Mississippi State. But in four games since then, Lawrence has made just seven 3-pointers in 33 attempts.

“When you look at players roles on the team, I think my role is to make shots for the team,” Lawrence said. “I’ve got to make shots. My team depends on me if we want to win basketball games, especially in the Big 12, and I’ve been struggling. That’s why I’m staying after. I’ve got to get it back. If I’m out here, I’ve got to be making shots.”

During his extra session on Monday, Lawrence said he took somewhere between 200 and 300 3-pointers and made around 150, and while those numbers sound lofty, Lawrence seemed a little dissappointed in the amount of shots he took.

“It’s tough after a coach (Mike) Anderson practice to get a ton of shots up,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence is trying to find ways to bring the kind of success he had after practice on Monday to games. In the Tigers’ most recent game against Kansas, Lawrence made only one of his nine 3-point attempts. He attributed that to Kansas’ defense and some problems with fundamentals.

“Kansas is a very good defensive team, probably on of the best in the Big 12, and they know I can shoot the ball,” Lawrence said. “Brandon Rush was on me, didn’t leave me, he did a very good job. I think I was fading back and I was shooting a little deep too. I’m trying to get back to the 3-point line. You know, you don’t get more points for shooting it deeper, so I’m trying to get back to higher-percentage areas.”

Anderson agreed with Lawrence’s assessment.

“I thought he kind of rushed his shots a little bit,” Anderson said. “As a matter of fact, they came at him so hard, there were opportunities for him to really put the ball on the floor and create something for himself or others. But of course I’m sure their deal was to not leave Matt Lawrence alone, and in the first half I think we took advantage of it because it enabled other guys to get to the basket, spot up shots, and in the second half we didn’t do a good job of knocking shots down.”

Lawrence said when opposing defenses won’t leave him alone, he knows he can still help the Tigers without taking many shots, because defenders are not providing any help defense to teammates.

“(I have to) just keeping spacing on the floor,” Lawrence said. “Guys like Stefhon (Hannah), Keon (Lawrence) and Jason (Horton) can get to the basket a lot easier when I stay out and don’t bring my man inside.”

Regardless of his recent struggles, Lawrence said his teammates still believe in his ability to make 3-pointers.

“My teammates are mad when I pass up a shot, even when I’m one for nine,” Lawrence said. “That’s something you need. I’m glad my teammates still have confidence in me, and they still want me out there shooting the ball.”

MORE LINEUP CHANGES?: Against Kansas on Saturday, forward Vaidotas Volkus made his first career start. Anderson said more lineup changes might be on the way when the Tigers play Wednesday at Texas Tech, hoping to end a six-game road losing streak, dating back to last year.

“I think it’s probably going to be us maybe injecting some new blood in the lineup,” Anderson said. “I think that’s going to help us. I think that’s the key is us trying to get some consistency in terms of the effort that we play in every game.”

In his start against the Jayhawks, Volkus scored eight points in 10 minutes. Anderson said that and the way Volkus has been playing in practice means that Volkus deserves more playing time.

BAYLOR RANKED: The Bears(15-2, 3-0 in the Big 12) are ranked 25th in the latest AP poll, which was released on Monday. It is the first time the team has been ranked since Feb. 11, 1969. That makes Baylor the fourth Big 12 team included in the rankings. The others are No.2 Kansas, No. 12 Texas and No. 18 Texas A&M.

“This is well-deserved for the players for what they’ve done on the court this year,” coach Scott Drew said in a press release on the Baylor Web site. “We are so pleased after all the lean years and not being ranked since 1969, it’s a great tribute to them. It will be very tough to get the smiles off their faces today.”

BZDELIK ON BEASLEY: First year Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik, who spent 16 years as an NBA scout, assistant coach and head coach, said Kansas State freshman forward Michael Beasley, who is leading the conference in scoring and rebounding, will be playing in the NBA soon.

“I think Michael is certainly an NBA talent,” Bzdelik said during Monday’s Big 12 teleconference. “In fact, I would encourage him to go pro before our game Wednesday. I say that tongue-in-cheek. People compare him to a young Derrick Coleman, and I think that is a great comparison.”

Coleman was chosen by the New Jersey Nets with the first pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. Coleman was the rookie of the year in the 1990-91 season and was selected to the 1994 Eastern Conference All-Star team.


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