Despite losing their first three Mid-South Conference games, the University of the Cumberlands are still the top three point shooting team in the country. As of Monday, the Patriots were hitting 46.6 percent from beyond the three-point arc. They had connected on 248 of 532 three point attempts.
The closest team to the Cumberlands in the Mid-South is newcomer, West Virginia Tech at 35.5 percent or 172 of 485.
Not only are the Patriots number one in the Mid-South, they are tops in all of NAIA. The Crusadors of Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego, California have hit 219 of 518 for 42.3 percent.
On closer inspection, it appears the Patriots are the nation’s number one team in all divisions…even the NCAA. The local team is ahead of Northern Arizona (44.4), Texas Tech (43.7) and defending national champ, Florida (43.6).
The team that comes the closest to the Patriots are the Flying Dutchman of Hope College in Holland, Michigan. They are hitting 44.5 percent or 171 of 384.
Patriots coach Donnie Butcher said it wasn’t by design that the University of the Cumberlands are having so much success from the three point arc. “We were trying to pound the ball inside early in the season and that wasn’t working so we took out one of our bigger guys and put in another post player that could really shoot it,” Butcher said.
“Not so much by design, but by accident we started doing a few things different offensively. And, what we found out was this one guy’s ability to make shots opened it up for everybody else because people were really hugged up on him,” said Butcher.
“I knew we were a good shooting team in the preseason just watching us,” he said. “But, I’ve never had a team shoot it like this in game situations. And then I’m not so sure that a little success bred more success after we started feeling good about ourselves.”
Butcher said his team doesn’t run to the three point line to shoot the ball. “We stay in the attack mode. Maybe because we are smaller we are looking to pitch it out to the perimeter more and I think that’s why we get more three point attempts than a lot of teams.”
Only two NCAA schools have shot more attempts than the Patriots (532) and that is Bradley (576) and D-III Ashland University (572). Notre Dame of the Big East has shot 507.
Three Patriots meet the criteria to be in the NAIA’s top three shooters while three others are knocking on the door. Mike Gibson, a junior from Chicago leads the team with a 50.5 percentage or 47 of 93 and is second in all of NAIA. Three spots down the ladder is Samuel Brown, a senior from Cleveland, TX. Brown is hitting 49.6 percent and has connected on 61 of 123. He is 21st on three pointers made in NAIA.
Louisville freshman Chad Byron is 10th nationally in percentage, having hit 44 of 94 for 46.8 percent. Senior Darnell Howell is in the top 20, hitting on 50 of 126 for 40 percent while Leslie Delk, a junior from Brownsville, Tn. is hitting at a 48.5 level but has hit just 16 of 33. Delk is the nephew of former UK Wildcat Tony Delk.
Somerset freshman Dustin Fothergill, who played for the Southwestern Warriors has hit 17 of 35 for 48.6 percent.
“We have eight guys that can hit the three when they are open and they all have the green light,” said Butcher. “Because they know they have the green light there is no hesitation so they feel good about jumping up there and shooting the three.”
“It has been a snowball type of effect to be honest,” Butcher said. “I haven’t put the handcuffs on anyone to be honest and they feel good about being able to shoot it and they have hit a few so that makes them feel even better.”
Butcher knew it would be rough going in the Mid-South Conference and he was right. The Patriots hit 6 of 21 in a 58-56 loss at Lindsey Wilson, the 8 of 25 in a 74-63 loss to West Virginia Tech. They had a season low 6 of 24 against Georgetown College in a 64-53 loss to the Tigers.
But, the shooting picked up in a 81-74 win over Campbellsville where the Patriots hit 7 of 19. Then in a home game last week the Patriots scorched the nets for 59 percent (13 of 22) in an 83-56 over Pikeville College. Brown was perfect, going three of three while Fothergill hit four of six.
“The defenses get better in the Mid-South Conference,” said Butcher. “We found that out in the first game, we were scouted much more detailed, so those teams are going to do a better job of chasing shooters off of shots.”
Since the Mid-South Conference season began, the Patriots have found the outside shooting a bit more difficult as the Patriots have hit 40 of 111 for 36 percent.
“I think our league is very well coached and one thing they do is take you out of what you do best,” Butcher said. “It will get more challenging.”
But, while it lasts, the University of the Cumberlands can say they are king of the hill.
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