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UNLV Hoops: Long ball obsessed Willis should borrow page from Book of Marshall

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Neither Tre’Von Willis nor Anthony Marshall will ever be confused with Reggie Miller.

Long range marksmanship will likely never be considered the forte of either Willis’ or Marshall’s games.

Willis, though certainly capable on occasion of heating up from deep, has never proven during his four college seasons to be anything other than a streaky 3-point shooter. And though he’s slowly but surely approaching 100 3-pointers made (95) for his career, Willis has knocked down an underwhelming 30.5% of those attempts.

Marshall, on the other hand – like a college student who has yet to find his or her major – has yet to find his 3-point stroke as a collegiate. In 49 games as a Rebel, Marshall has made an unsightly 7 out of 51 from beyond the arc.

Long story short, neither Willis nor Marshall have shown that the 3-point shot should be treated as a significant weapon in their respective arsenals.

Marshall, a sophomore, seems to understand this. Willis, a fifth year senior, apparently does not.

Despite shooting just 27.3% from behind the 3-point stripe, Willis nevertheless continues to let the long ball fly. For the season, over 45% of Willis’ field goal attempts have come from deep, a staggering percentage given his lack of accuracy.

In Wednesday’s home loss to BYU, half of Willis’ 16 field goal attempts came from long range. He made just 2 of them.

Conversely, Marshall – a 21.4% shooter from 3-point range so far this season – has exhibited far more discipline than Willis. A nearly 60% shooter from inside the arc, over 73% of Marshall’s field goal attempts have come from 2-point range.

As Willis’ percentage of 3-point attempts has gone up – only 36% of his field goal attempts last season came from deep – his production has gone down. A 17.2 point per game scorer last season, Willis has seen his scoring average plummet to just 11.5 per contest.

This dip in production has prompted many to compare the season that Willis is currently having to the well documented, highly disappointing senior season that former UNLV standout Wink Adams endured two years ago.

Adams, who like Willis this season, was coming off a junior campaign that saw him named a first team All-Mountain West performer, was expected by many to be the conference’s best player as a senior. Instead, Adams slumped badly, and UNLV -- picked to win the conference that season -- finished fifth, missing out on the NCAA Tournament.

Though similarities do exist between the season Adams had and the season Willis is having, there are some rather significant differences to consider.

A streaky long range shooter in his own right, Adams – as Willis has this season – struggled badly from deep, making an anemic 26.9% of his 3-pointers that season. Unlike Willis, however, Adams actually shot far fewer 3-pointers as a senior than he did during his banner junior campaign.

Willis’ issues, however, point to his increased affinity for the 3-point shot as being the primary culprit in his senior slump.

Unlike Adams, who struggled from everywhere on the court, making less than 44% of his 2-point field goal attempts while knocking down a career low 68% of his free throws, Willis has actually remained effective from inside the 3-point arc. Through 13 games, Willis has made better than 52% of his 2-point attempts, and he’s connecting on 83% of his free throws.

Whereas Willis’ tendency to settle for 3-pointers has cut into his productivity at the line, being able to just say no to the long ball has paid early dividends for Marshall in that area.

Vastly improved from the line as a sophomore, Marshall has used his ability to drive to the basket to get more opportunities at the stripe. In only 15 games this season, Marshall has just one fewer free throw attempt (61) than he had all of last season.

Willis, however – no doubt because he settles too often for the long ball – has gotten to the free throw line far less frequently this season as opposed to last.

As a junior, Willis averaged nearly six trips (5.8) to the line per contest -- an incredibly valuable number given that Willis made nearly 86% of his tries from there. So far this season, Willis is getting to the charity stripe just over three times (3.2) per game.

Though 0-1 in conference play after the loss to BYU, and their assumed senior star struggling to recapture his junior form, the Rebels -- and their fans -- should not yet decalre this season as a repeat of two years ago.

That said, Willis needs to fall out of love with the long ball...and fast...and consider borrowing a page from the Book of Marshall.

Look in the M's, Tre'Von...far, far away from Reggie Miller's book!

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