Linda Lappe never made a big deal of her team's inconsistency and occasional inability to make the 3-point shot this season.
Perhaps it is a fact of life the Colorado women's basketball coach recognized months ago would be a season-long issue and she moved beyond dwelling on it while encouraging players to keep practicing. Maybe she simply believed the Buffs were better suited to attacking defenses in other ways and never planned to worry much about the three.
Regardless, there is no doubt the Buffs have struggled from behind the arc this season and they suffered losses because of it. There also is no doubt, they have shown significant improvement shooting the long ball during the postseason.
"I just think you have more time in between games so it gives you more opportunity to get extra shots up," point guard Lexy Kresl said. "I feel like you have more time and off days to work on your own personal game. Maybe that's what it is."
CU players have all the time in the world to work on their game this week being on spring break and waiting to play their third-round game in the WNIT on Friday night at UTEP. They practiced Tuesday morning with Lappe away on a recruiting trip under the direction of associate head coach Jonas Chatterton.
In 33 games, the Buffs are shooting just .298 behind the 3-point line, but in four postseason games, they are shooting .368 from long distance. Senior Brittany Wilson has made 10 of 25 3-pointers in the postseason. Freshmen Lauren Huggins is 5-for-8. Kresl is closer to the team's season average making five of 17 3-pointers, but several of her shots have come in big moments to cool an opponents' run or start one for the Buffs.
"I don't know if I would say there is any more rhyme or reason to it," Chatterton said. "I think our kids have done a great job of focusing more and knocking down shots."
Chatterton said the Buffs are at their best when they make sure to try to go into the post or drive the ball into the paint first and then kick out for 3-pointers. He said the thing coaches don't like to see is the ball being moved around the perimeter and then settling for a 3-point shot.
"We hit those shots way more, and we did throughout the whole season, than we do with the ball just getting swung around the perimeter," Chatterton said. "Any time we can get the ball in and then back out to a three is a better shot for us."
The Buffs were abysmal at shooting the 3-point shot during Pac-12 Conference play and it was at least part of why they went from the top 25 in December to the bottom third of the Pac-12. They made just 24 percent of their 3-point attempts during conference games. The only player on the team who shot better than 30 percent behind the arc and attempted at least 10 3-pointers was Ashley Wilson, who shot 36 percent, but she only attempted 11 3-pointers in those 18 games, barely qualifying her for mention here.
"It's very tough because then defenses can start clogging the paint," sophomore forward Arielle Roberson said. "A lot of the team's offense comes from inside the paint whether its post scorers or at least paint touches and penetrate and pitch. So when you're not knocking down the shots, teams can just relax in. It hurts your confidence a little bit. You want to keep shooting, but then you know you're not making them. I guess it does something to you mentally."
During one five-game stretch in late-January and early February, the Buffs went 12-for-49 behind the arc (.245), including two games in which they failed to make a 3-pointer. CU had gone nine years and 285 consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer in every game.
Kresl said the team went away from shooting threes at times to focus on its strengths in the post with Roberson, Jen Reese and Jamie Swan all proving to be capable and consistent scorers in and around the paint.
Kresl said the team also has realized it can't rely on its post players to provide the offense all the time. Suddenly the Buffs seem to have more confidence behind the 3-point line which is making it tougher on teams to guard them in the WNIT.
"I think we're dialed in a lot more because we know what's on the line," Roberson said.