Texas' Connor Lammert (21) scores over Texas Tech's Toddrick Gotcher during an NCAA basketball game at the Frank Erwin Center Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. (Stephen Spillman for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: When Lammert’s shooting, Longhorns hit target on offense

Posted February 17th, 2016

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Connor Lammert doesn’t always make them, but he doesn’t always attempt them either — and that can be a problem.

Lammert is a “stretch four,” which in basketball terms means a power forward with three-point shooting range. As a recipient of that label, Lammert has the ability to keep defenses honest by knocking down triples, which opens up more offensive opportunities for his teammates to explore.

When Lammert is on, the Texas offense is on.  We all know that Isaiah Taylor is at his best when he’s probing the lane and finishing at the bucket, and when Lammert is making shots, the driving lanes appear to be bigger.  The other Longhorns — senior guard Javan Felix, the three freshman and even new offensive option Prince Ibeh — appear to feed off Lammert when he has it going.

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“I just like when he shoots,” said first-year Texas coach Shaka Smart. “I feel like it’s going in every time.”

Lammert is a thinking man’s basketball player who knows where each player is supposed to be at all times. Before Smart got here, Rick Barnes wanted Lammert in the game because of his ability to keep the ball moving while he diagnosed what defenses were throwing at the Horns. Barnes also spent a lot of time urging Lammert to pull the trigger on his jumper, even when Lammert  wasn’t convinced the shot would go in.

Smart has run into the same issue, watching as one of the most unselfish guys on the team passes up open looks.

“He’s such a conscientious person that he wants to please everybody and doesn’t want to let anyone down,” Smart said.

While Smart is forever imploring his players to control what they can, Lammert, an introspective sort, can’t help himself at times. When the jumper wasn’t falling during a three-game stretch earlier this month that saw him sink only 2 of 12 three-pointers, he wasn’t always itching to let it fly — unlike freshman Eric Davis, who said he is “hot” after the first shot, make or miss.

“The thing with Connor is not as much about getting down on himself,” Felix said. “He’s always looking to make the right pass, but sometimes the right pass has just been made to him.

Lammert is making a respectable 34 percent of his triples and ranks second to Felix in attempts with 107.  You could call Lammert’s three-point performance a barometer for this offense. The Horns are 5-1 this season in games in which has made three or more triples. The lone loss came at Kansas, where he made five from distance.

“I’ll shoot if it’s in rhythm, if it’s a good shot and in the flow of the game,” he said after hitting 3 of 6 threes Tuesday in a victory over  West Virginia that moved the Horns to 8-5 in Big 12 play. “I probably need to shoot more. Still, I had a down week last week, and the shots weren’t falling. I’ll take the open shots when they’re there and I want to take them.”

One three came in the second half Tuesday after Lammert initially hesitated on the wing, right in front of the Texas bench. After point guard Isaiah Taylor told him to hoist the shot because the shot clock was running down, Big Lam let it go and the ball found nylon. “Good shot!” Smart yelled from the bench.

A veteran of 129 college games, Lammert still thinks like a big man, and at 6 feet, 10 inches and 235 pounds, who wouldn’t? Before that three, he was thinking about dumping the ball into Shaquille Cleare. Until Taylor told him to shoot.

“I hate it when guards don’t throw it inside when you’re open,” he said.

Lammert gets less notice for doing the dirty work on the defensive end. With post Cameron Ridley out, Lammert’s the leading active rebounder on the club at 5.4 boards per game. He still relishes the feeling of banging around in the paint even if it’s obvious that the team’s flow will largely depend on if he takes (and makes) big shots at the other end.

Shoot it,  Lam. Shoot it.

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