UMSL men’s basketball wins national free throw title

UMSL Tritons junior guard Darian Cartharn shoots a free throw during a game earlier this season. The UMSL men’s basketball team won the national free throw title this year. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The University of Missouri­–St. Louis men’s basketball team is the free throw shooting champion in NCAA Division II.

The UMSL Tritons, who took the D-2 lead in early January and kept it for the rest of the season, finished with a school record of 80.4 percent. That figure also tied NCAA Division III member University of Rochester (N.Y.) for the highest percentage among all NCAA schools. 

UMSL, which posted a 17-10 record, hit 516-of-562 attempts at the foul line during the 2012-13 campaign. That easily eclipsed the previous single-season school mark of 76.4 percent (462-of-605) in 1984-85.

“It is a neat thing to finish at the top and to have that recognition, and it probably did calculate into us being able to win 17 games this year,” said third-year head coach Steve Tappmeyer, who directed UMSL to its third-straight winning season. “There were probably a number of games that we may not have won had we not shot free throws well.

“Getting to the free throw line was a point of emphasis this year for us,” Tappmeyer said. “When teams get to the free-throw line, it really affects the opposing team and softens the defense up when they begin to get into foul trouble.

“We didn’t do anything particularly different in practice this year, although we do have some drills where we do shoot free throws every day. However, I’ve learned that the bigger the deal you make out of making them, the more pressure it really puts on the players.”

Among the players leading UMSL at the line were junior Michael Weber and senior Joshua McCoy.

Weber finished the season ranked fifth in NCAA Division II, hitting at a 91.4 percent (85-of-93) clip, while McCoy was 41st at 85.6 percent (101-of-118).

Weber, who ranks second all-time on the single-season charts, tied a single-game school record for free throw percentage by netting all 11 attempts at Kentucky Wesleyan College (Owensboro) on Jan. 5. Those 11 free throws were also part of a stretch of 34 straight made by Weber from a Dec. 17 game at Lincoln University of Missouri (Jefferson City) to a Feb. 7 game at Drury University (Springfield, Mo.).

McCoy graduates ranked second all-time in program history with a career shooting percentage of 84.7 (188-of-222) at the free-throw line. His average this season tied the fourth-best single-season record, while he also ranked ninth as a junior during the 2011-12 season, shooting 83.7 percent (87-of-104).

UMSL became the top-ranked free throw shooting D-2 team on Jan. 6 after a 23-of-29 (.793) performance in a 72-71 loss at then-No. 9 ranked Kentucky Wesleyan. That put the Tritons at 81.4 percent for the season. A 23-of-27 effort four nights later in a thrilling 87-82 double overtime victory at home against then-No.4 ranked Bellarmine University (Louisville, Ky.) gave them their season-high of 81.8 percent.

The Tritons shot less than 70 percent at the charity stripe just twice all season and shot better than 90 percent on four different occasions, including a season-best 94.7 percent (18-of-19) in a 74-70 home loss to eventual NCAA Division II national champion Drury.

Bellarmine was the next closest Great Lakes Valley Conference opponent behind UMSL, shooting 78.3 (452-of-577) at the line. The Knights were led by Vance Hall, who finished fourth nationally at 91.4 percent (96-of-105). Drury shot 74.3 percent (574-773) at the free-throw line, which ranked 40th in Division II. 

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Mary Ann Mitchell

Mary Ann Mitchell

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