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Chuck Landon: Spikes has chance to restore his confidence

Dec. 15, 2012 @ 12:30 AM

They are called chippies.

As in, chip-shots.

Or gimmes. Bunnies. Put-backs. Follows. Stick-backs.

Basically, they are any basketball shot taken from point-blank range, which is roughly two or three feet from the rim.

And guess what?

Marshall's Nigel Spikes isn't trying to miss them.

Really he isn't.

Granted, it has seemed that way lately. In fact, in Marshall's last two games Spikes has managed to make only 3 of 12 chippies (.250).

To make matters worse, Spikes is Marshall's second-tallest player at 6-foot-10, which makes expectations from gimme-range soar proportionately. For the height-challenged readers in the audience, this is maddening.

"How can he be so tall and miss so many easy shots?" they shriek.

Good question.

"Umm, I really don't know," answered Spikes. "I've been coming up short on a lot of baskets, hitting the front of the rim. Or I hit the back of the rim.

"They just haven't been on target. But it isn't something I can't work on. I just come in the gym and get a lot of reps in every day and try to get better."

After a miserable 2-for-9 shooting performance in Marshall's last game, Spikes really would like to get better Saturday. That's because the Herd plays its toughest opponent of the season when it hosts 11th-ranked Cincinnati at 2 p.m. in the Charleston Civic Center.

Spikes enters the game averaging 7.6 points and 9.2 rebounds as Marshall's starting center, while shooting .565 from the field (26-for-46) and only .480 at the foul line (24-for-50).

Those two shooting percentages are the problems. And one just might be creating the other.

Think about it.

Spikes is a legendary poor foul-shooter. In 2009-10, he shot 51.5 percent (17 of 33). In 2010-11, it was 50.5 percent (51 of 101). In 2011-12, he was 54.9 percent (28 of 51). And, now, a career-low 48.0 percent.

So, maybe when Spikes gets the ball in the paint, he's trying to get rid of it as fast as possible instead of gathering himself and going up strong. Maybe Spikes is flipping shots up there so quickly because he's trying to get rid of the ball to avoid being fouled and, consequently, having to make another dreaded trip to the foul line.

"Well, that may be true," conceded Spikes, as he pondered the premise. "That may be true."

I mean, Spikes obviously hates shooting free throws based on his career percentage of .511 (120 of 235).

Nigel chuckled at that conclusion, smiling knowingly.

Put yourself in Spikes' position. If one of us were shooting .480 from the foul line, we certainly would be thinking, oh, gosh, I don't want to have to go to the foul line and get embarrassed again. Let me get rid of it before they foul me.

"It could be," said Spikes. "Yeah, it could be. I didn't even look at it like that. It may be the case."

And maybe Saturday is the day Spikes turns it around.

"When you start to make easy shots that also gives you confidence at the foul line," reasoned Marshall head coach Tom Herrion. "It all carries over and snowballs. ... just like missing does."

So, if Spikes makes one chippie, maybe then he'll add a bunny and even a put-back. Why, he might even make two consecutive foul shots.

It makes sense.

Now, if it just translates into making shots.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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