Several BYU basketball players stuck around the Marriott Center long after practice officially ended Tuesday, getting help from team staffers to take a large quantity of extra 3-point shots.
Yes, the arc is on the downward trend these days. And, as coach Dave Rose points out (not that he needs to in this case), it's not just one or two guys struggling.
Since making 11-of-24 at San Diego on Jan. 16, BYU has clanked 62 of their 73 attempts over four games, which includes two home losses.
It's a problem, for sure, especially for a team that seems to place so much emphasis on shooting them. But it's not the only issue, as film study the last couple of days - coming off another blowout loss to the top West Coast Conference team, St. Mary's — shows effort and execution must be picked up all over the court.
Senior Charles Abouo, a co-captain, pointed out that by now there have been some defensive lapses that should be reconciled by this point in the year. True, St. Mary's is ranked in the top 20 nationally, but it's been the likes of even Loyola Marymount, Virginia Tech (after a horrid offensive start last Wednesday) and even Pepperdine a couple of weekends ago that have made life unusually tough for the Cougars. Especially on defense, where the Cougars have had their zone defense lit up and the man-to-man style hasn't been good enough. St. Mary's, for example, shot 55 percent from the field Monday.
"We're disappointed just from watching tape," Hartsock said of the 14-point loss to SMC in Provo last Saturday. "From the first game (Dec. 29, a 16-point BYU loss), we tried to correct mistakes, but we still made them."
Not a good trend, considering new top-25 member, and the WCC's top (Bull)dog, Gonzaga, is on town Thursday.
"It's a big deal," BYU center Brandon Davies said. "Not just because they're a big-name team, but because we're coming off a loss."
Players young or old have zero problem conceding there isn't much wiggle room anymore, if there's any, when it comes to winning and losing. They're careful to not hit the panic button about their postseason hopes. Abouo recognized that a worst-case is that BYU's run at a sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid comes down to a chance to win the WCC postseason tournament in early March in Las Vegas.
"Once we get back to playing how we play," Davies said, "the sky's the limit."
Abouo was disappointed to see, especially through the glare of video, how St. Mary's "out-hustled us to a lot of important loose balls and rebounds; things like that."
That's maybe one over-riding presence about the new league the Cougars are in. It's not overly stacked athletically, compared to the Mountain West, but teams tend to not be afraid of a floor burn or 20. Even a struggling team like Pepperdine recently gave BYU a solid game.
Also, remember that the "new kid on the block" Cougars still are a target based just on that.
"We have to have sustained effort for 40 minutes," Abouo said. "We're not worried. We still have a lot of confidence in our team. But, you know, we definitely have to change some things right away. We have to play better and as players, we have to do a better job on the court. Make more shots, get more stops. It's really on us. We definitely have a lot of opportunities left."
But BYU has to stop saving its best for practices, which Rose stressed have been consistently strong all year.
"Our practices have been good. They've been mostly good all year. That's not the problem," the seventh-year head coach said.
It's easy to agree practices are going well. After practice, Brock Zylstra nailed about 10 threes in a row from just to the left of the top of the key.
But now those need to swish during games, and not just from the junior shooting guard.
∫Not any better: Stephen Rogers continues his unfortunate trend. He played a few minutes last Saturday, practice hard Monday...then wasn't able to go again Tuesday on his surgically repaired knee (torn meniscus). It keeps swelling after continued exertion.
∫As for the 3-point line...: It'll be interesting to see how the Cougars come out firing for the 9 p.m. game Thursday against Gonzaga. Their outside-shooting woes have stretched four games, and the team is averaging about 18 attempts from behind the arc in that frozen span.
"I think all of us are really good shooters," freshman point guard Matt Carlino said. "Maybe we can't shoot as many; maybe ease our way back into it. (Opponents) are putting a lot of pressure on the 3-point line, too...but maybe we need to take it inside, shoot more twos."
Jason Franchuk can be reached at email@example.com. Or follow him on Twitter, @harkthefranchuk