Shane Gatling expects all those shots to soon start falling more frequently. Colorado head basketball coach Tad Boyle does as well.
Until then, however, Gatling plans to shoot his way out of his slump.
The junior guard's first season with the Buffaloes hasn't unfolded exactly as he had hoped after transferring from Indian Hills Community College. But it has been far from disastrous as well, and Gatling's ability to perform more consistently could prove critical for the Buffs as they begin Pac-12 Conference play Thursday night at Arizona (7 p.m. MT, FS1).
"I'm not battling my confidence. I'm just not making shots," Gatling said. "My teammates keep pushing me. My coaches keep telling me, 'Keep shooting, keep shooting.' I just passed up a couple shots (last week) because I know I've been thinking too much. I've missed four in a row, maybe I shouldn't shoot this one. I've really got to keep shooting it, because that's what I'm here to do. I'm here to shoot the ball."
Much like the Buffs as a whole, Gatling has endured his ups-and-downs of late.
While CU put together a comeback win at New Mexico on Dec. 11, Gatling was one of the few Buffs who struggled, going 2-for-5 overall and 0-for-2 on 3-pointers while committing three turnovers in a season-low 12 minutes. Yet Gatling proved to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable loss against Indiana State last week in the first game of the Diamond Head Classic, going 4-for-7 (2-for-3 on threes) with 10 points and three blocked shots.
As has been the case all season, though, Gatling couldn't sustain the hot streak. In the final two games in Hawaii — a loss against the host Rainbow Warriors and a win against Charlotte — Gatling went 1-for-13 overall and 1-for-8 on 3-pointers, scoring just four points combined.
"The answer is to just do your job. If you're job is to shoot threes when you're open, you better shoot threes when you're open," Boyle said. "If your job is to box out, box out. If your job is to go to the offensive glass and rebound, go to the offensive glass and rebound. You just need to do your job. You don't need to do anything else other than that.
"We've got good shooters who aren't shooting the ball well. Shane Gatling is one of them. D'Shawn Schwartz is one of them. We've got some guys who are not shooting like they're capable of shooting it. That doesn't bother me if they guard and if they rebound. Because the bottom line is, if we guard and we rebound the way we're capable, we beat Indiana State...and we beat Hawaii. But we let the frustrations on offense creep into our minds, and it crept into other parts of our game."
In some respects, Gatling still is getting acclimated to playing at the Pac-12 level. While he played one season at Niagara before shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers in his lone junior college season, the 10,800 fans Gatling played in front of at The Pit in New Mexico was by far the largest crowd of his career.
Still, with the Buffs' rollercoaster play through the nonconference slate merely par for the course in what should be a wide-open Pac-12 race, Gatling will be counted on to produce more hot streaks than cold. Following Monday's practice, Boyle noted that it remains a promising sign for his offense that the three regulars with the top shooting percentages — McKinley Wright, Lucas Siewert, and Tyler Bey — are taking the most shots.
By that same token, it's difficult to overlook that backup guard Namon Wright is far outpacing Gatling in 3-point percentage (.406 to .302) and overall field goal percentage (.459 to .350) while taking 1.6 fewer shots per game. Both players boast similar assist-to-turnover ratios, with Wright at 1.33 and Gatling at 1.09.
"Is the number of shots and the guys taking them right? And are the minutes right? I worry about that more than I worry about lineups," Boyle said."Shots are part of it. But defense, rebounding, taking care of the ball — that's really the part that I'm dialed-in to. I've thought about lineup changes but I haven't gone in that direction yet. "