Rich Elliott: Faris finally making a difference with her shooting touch
Updated 12:15 am, Thursday, November 29, 2012
HARTFORD -- Kelly Faris had been a liability for the UConn women's basketball team offensively over the first three years of her career. No matter how much time she spent on her game, no matter how many shots she took during the off-season, it rarely translated into success in games.
Sure, Faris had her moments. She scored 15 points against Penn State in the NCAA regional semifinals last season. She had 19 points in a loss at Stanford that ended UConn's NCAA-record 90-game winning streak on Dec. 30, 2010. And she had a career-high 20 points in a thrilling win at Notre Dame on Jan. 8, 2011.
But her greatest games came with opponents begging Faris to shoot the ball. Opponents would not defend her in the halfcourt set. Last season, in particular, they regularly sagged into the lane to double-team UConn center Stefanie Dolson.
"That's something that you should kind of take personally if that's what happens to you," Faris said. "And that happened to me quite a bit last year, but rightly so. It's frustrating. But I was more frustrated with myself because there was no reason for them to guard me. I wasn't much of a threat. I hardly even looked at the basket."
For a player as prideful as Faris, who is so sound in every other phase of the game, she knew she had to become a reliable source of offensive production in her senior season for the second-ranked Huskies. She had to hold the opposition accountable defensively, force them to be honest. And through the first six games this season, Faris has been everything UConn coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies could have hoped for. She continued her torrid start Wednesday by scoring a season-high 17 points on 5-of-6 shooting (3-of-3 3-pointers) in a 101-41 win over Colgate before 7,394 at the XL Center.
Of course, Faris also delivered five rebounds, five assists and three steals in 21 minutes.
"I don't know anybody that's ever worked any harder than Kelly and no one deserves to be rewarded more than she does," Auriemma said. "There's always going to be a spot for her on any team at any level, because making shots is just a bonus when you have somebody like Kelly. You look at her stat sheet (Wednesday) and that's pretty impressive for someone to be able to do all that.
"We're going to miss her, but not yet."
Faris made her first four shots against the Raiders, including a 3-pointer 91 seconds into the game that resulted in a four-point play. The only shot she missed was on an off-balanced putback attempt with 1:04 left in the first half.
Faris generated 15 points in 13 minutes in the first half. UConn led 49-22 at halftime.
"It's awesome to see," Dolson said. "Kelly's always one of those people you always root for because she's just an awesome person on and off the court. She doesn't always get the recognition and praise that other people get because she kind of does the little things. So when she has awesome games like she did (Wednesday) and just knocking in shots, everyone's happy for her."
Faris said she took 500 to 800 shots per day this summer. And she felt as though she could have taken more.
She is averaging 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and a team-high 4.3 assists in 23.8 minutes a game this season. But what truly stands out is her shooting accuracy. Faris is shooting 75.0 percent from the field (21-of-28), 64.3 percent from 3-point range (9-of-14).
Entering Wednesday's game, she led the Big East in shooting percentage and was tied for the lead in 3-point shooting.
"It's about time, right," Faris said. "It's been a long time coming so I'm hoping I can keep it going and stay consistent with it."
Faris, who shot 41.9 percent from the field in her first 115 games, does not have to serve as a primary scoring option for the Huskies (6-0). All-American Bria Hartley, Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and freshman sensation Breanna Stewart will fill that role.
However, if Faris can continue to produce, it will make UConn that much more difficult to defend. Right now, the Huskies are averaging 92 points and are a match-up nightmare. The biggest nightmare of all for opponents, though, just might be the way Faris has emerged as a legitimate scoring threat.
"I think, right now, we're all working together really well and getting a lot of different options," Faris said. "And, personally, I feel like I'm making better decisions than I used to. And I've got to keep working on that and keep getting better at it. But I feel good about where I'm at right now."
firstname.lastname@example.org; http://twitter.com/elliottctpost; http://blog.ctnews.com/elliott/