Freshman’s shooting improved in team’s last game
Jena Stutzman practiced shooting after classes, sometimes at night and sometimes by herself. Just her, the ball and an automatic rebounding machine.
It’s there the freshman guard rebuilt her confidence.
Before dropping 21 points against Miami on Sunday, Stutzman had struggled on the court during the conference season. Her stats alone tell her story.
The 3-point shooting specialist averaged more than 10 points in 12 non-conference games. On Dec. 14 after hitting six 3-pointers in back-to-back games, Stutzman was ranked fourth in the nation in 3-point percentage.
Kent State (17-7, 6-6 Mid-American Conference) at Ohio (10-15, 5-7)
When: 7 p.m. tonight
Where: Convocation Center (Athens)
Radio: WHLO-AM 640 (Ty Linder)
“I think as I played, I tried to relax,” she said. “My teammates and coaches are always telling me if you’re open, you better shoot it. Hitting shots early on helped me to not be tentative.”
As the season dragged on, however, missed shots stacked up. She went a combined 1-of-8 against Akron and Western Michigan.
Stutzman became hesitant shooting the long ball. In the two following games, the Berlin, Ohio, native took only three total shots.
“I definitely lost confidence,” she said. “I used to be the kind of person where if I missed a shot, I’d be like: ‘Oh, I’m so bad. I missed that shot.’ It wasn’t that I thought I was going to miss every shot. It was just, ‘Should I take this shot?'”
So Stutzman hit the gym and began working on her own. She knew her job was to knock down 3-pointers and her team depended on it.
“I tried to get in pretty much every day,” she said. “I know that my 3-point shooting is my role and when I’m open I have to hit those shots for my team.”
Stutzman finally broke her shooting slump Sunday, hitting 5 of 9 shots from behind the arc. Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said her slump is typical of most freshmen.
“The length of the season is especially the thing (freshmen) have the hardest time with,” he said. “I think they get into the latter stages of the season and sometimes just get a little on the tired side – mentally probably more than anything else.
“(Stutzman) needed to come in and have a good game, which she had (Sunday).”
The longer season has taken its toll on Stutzman. A regular season in high school is about 20 games. Kent State’s game tonight against Ohio will be the team’s 25th.
“I can tell my body is a lot more tired,” she said. “This would be like, I would have two more games in my season and then I would be done – if we made it to the state finals.”
Stutzman usually made it to the state finals in high school, though. In four years at Hiland High School, she helped her team to three state championships while breaking her school’s all-time career scoring record.
In Athens tonight against the Bobcats, the Flashes (17-7, 6-6 Mid-American Conference) will look for Stutzman to be nailing shots from the wing. She hit 3 of 6 3-point attempts last time against Ohio in a 78-74 overtime win.
“She’s certainly having an excellent year for a freshman,” Lindsay said. “She’s done every bit of what we’ve expected from her this early in her career.”
Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected]