TIGER TIPOFF: 1,000 shots a week pays off for Missouri's Thornton

Friday, March 4, 2011 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:31 p.m. CST, Friday, March 4, 2011
Missouri guard Trenee Thornton tries to pass around Oklahoma State defender Tiffany Bias in a Feb. 16 game at Mizzou Arena. Thornton went 7-of-13 from 3-point range in the Tigers' 71-65 overtime victory.

COLUMBIA — To put it kindly, shooting has not been a strength of the Missouri women’s basketball team this season.

Actually, the Tigers’ shooting woes extend further back. Currently, they are last in the Big 12 Conference in field goal percentage at 38.9 percent. It could be the fourth straight season the Tigers are the worst shooting team in the conference.

But they’re trying to improve. Every week, each player’s goal is to attempt 1,000 shots outside of practice.

“Not required, but encouraged,” coach Robin Pingeton said.

The players have to record when they shoot and how many shots they attempted every week. While every player doesn’t meet the 1,000-shot goal, Pingeton said she is pleased with the time the players have put in.

“Some weeks are going to be busier for them than others in regards to papers due and tests and projects,” Pingeton said. “One week you might only get 500 in. Hopefully the next week you can get 1,200 in. There’s a balance in there.”

The 1,000-shot goal is a way to hold the players accountable. While it might not show up in the overall team shooting statistics, there are signs that it’s helping.

Take Trenee Thornton, for example.

The sophomore guard wasn’t shooting well at the start of the season. She was 7-of-33 from beyond the 3-point line. She was averaging less than two points per game. Then the Tigers played Oklahoma State, and she suddenly found her stroke. She was 7-of-13 from 3-point range and scored 28 points in the next three games.

She credited her breakthrough to the thousands of shots attempted outside of practice.

After barely seeing the floor during her freshman season and averaging only 8.5 minutes per game in nonconference play this season, Thornton quickly became a big part of the Missouri team. She is averaging more than 24 minutes a game in conference play. For a young player thrown into the fire that is the Big 12, seeing shots finally start to fall gave her a confidence boost.

“I’m not even nervous anymore,” Thornton said. “I just play my game.”

After going cold in a home loss to Colorado, Thornton went 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in Wednesday’s loss to Baylor. But the young point guard knows her role isn’t scoring.

“Distribute the ball,” Thornton said. “Get it to our scorers and get it in the post.”

One of those scorers is senior RaeShara Brown, who is shooting a respectable 36 percent from beyond the arc. While Thornton usually tries to get her 1,000 shots up sometime before or after practice, Brown does it anytime of day.

“Before class, after class, at night, midnight. Whenever I can get it in,” Brown said. “Whenever I feel like coming in and getting shots up, that’s what I do.”

Thornton likes to shoot with fellow sophomore Sydney Crafton, but Brown likes to do it by herself.

“I use it as a getaway to clear my mind and to take my mind off of things” she said. “So when I do that, I like to be by myself and just think about the game. I think shooting by myself is great therapy for me.”

Brown and Thornton said there isn’t much competition between players to see who can shoot or make the most shots. Most of the competition is individual, with each player trying to reach the 1,000-shot goal.

It’s likely to be next season before the team as a whole sees its work pay off. For now, the Tigers will continue to work on their shots outside of practice.

“This time of year everything we do in practice has to be centered primarily around our team,” Pingeton said. “It’s impossible to get the amount of shots you need to get in to become a great shooter.”

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