SEATTLE — After four Pac-12 conference games, one could argue Washington’s 3-point shooting is still a bit of a mystery.
UW (13-4, 3-1 Pac-12) is shooting 25.6 percent on 3-pointers in conference play. That’s not exactly Steph Curry territory; but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Huskies went 8-of-16 for 50 percent in a win over USC. Against UCLA and Washington State, they combined to shoot 4-of-39 for 10.2 percent in a game they lost (UCLA) and almost lost (WSU).
Yet in a 66-56 win Thursday over California, UW finished 9-of-19 for 47.3 percent from beyond the arc.
“I think we have really good shooters,” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said. “I think after the UCLA game, our stats are going to be really bad. You know (shooting) 2-for-27 (from the 3-point line). You can play five games and still shoot 50 percent and it’s still going to hamper that.”
All four of UW’s conference games have come against teams that aren’t particularly strong at defending the 3-point line.
UCLA is 236th against the 3-pointer with opposing teams converting 39.5 percent of their chances from beyond the arc. WSU is 272nd.
If that’s the case, why did UW shoot so poorly against both schools? The Huskies, after taking a halftime lead at Pauley Pavilion, went on a 3-for-30 stretch in a loss to the Bruins.
As for the Cougars, they struggled to stop the Huskies inside and there was no point in shooting from outside.
The Golden Bears were a little different. Like the Huskies, they play primarily zone defense, and UW was able to spread the floor.
“I think that when you’re always playing zone, that’s one of the main ways to score in a zone,” said Huskies freshman guard Jaylen Nowell, who was 2-of-3 from the 3-point line and also scored a team-high 20 points. “It’s either attack it or shoot the outside ball. We were ready for that coming out.”
Nowell was one of several players who took extra 3-pointers both in warmups and during the team’s pregame routine.
Early on, the Huskies incorporated the 3 by shooting 5-of-13 for 38.4 percent in the first half. But as UW built its lead, it used the 3-point shot with greater efficiency by shooting 4-of-6 for 66.7 percent in the second half.
While it helps to knock down triples, long-range shooting isn’t UW’s primary scoring option.
Only 26 percent of UW’s points come from the 3-point line. That’s 293rd nationally and the fourth-lowest percentage in the Pac-12.
The Huskies — even with what happened at UCLA and Wazzu — are still an average 3-point shooting team at 34.8 percent. They rank 173 out of 351 Division I teams.
At home, they’re shooting 38.3 percent. On the road, they’re shooting 28.9 percent.
UW’s percentage this season is slightly lower than the 35.4 clip it shot in 2016-17.
It’s possible UW could get hot against Stanford at 5 p.m. Saturday. Or another cold front could be in the forecast.
Opponents are shooting 37.3 percent against Stanford, which is 174th nationally. In other words, Stanford possesses an average 3-point defense.
So again, one of two things could happen.
Either the Huskies shoot above 45 percent or they shoot less than 20 percent.
All of it might come off a bit extreme yet the early conference returns show, in fact, it’s about average for the Huskies.
“I think we’ve got really good shooters. We’ve got really good players,” Hopkins said. “I thought we did a good job of making the extra pass (Thursday) and we got some good looks. And as we did, we knocked them down.
“As we move forward … that’s important.”