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Ashley Scoby: In the midst of a down streak, Booker due for yet another breakout stretch

In basketball, the worst part about shooting is its streakiness.

But the best part about shooting? Its streakiness. No matter how up and down it may be, one piece holds true: The “up” streak always comes back around eventually.

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Devin Booker has exemplified that phenomenon better than perhaps anyone this year. He’s been up (making 5-of-6 three-pointers against Texas-Arlington, for example), and he’s been down (making 2-of-9 at Tennessee).

Recently, the down trend has been far more pronounced: Booker has made only three shots from long range, out of 16 attempts in the post-season. Going back even further, Booker has gone 11-of-42 (26 percent) over his last 11 games.

Compare that with Booker’s streak from earlier this year during the seven-game stretch between the North Carolina game and the road trip to Alabama: In those seven games, Booker made 20-of-28 three-pointers (71 percent).

Shooting over 70 percent from three-point range over a span of seven games with that many attempts is, frankly, ridiculous – and the good thing for UK fans is that the talent allowing Booker to shoot that way hasn’t left his body, or his mind.

Freshman guard Devin Booker has made just three of 16 three-point attempts in post-season play (Jamie Vaught Photo)

Freshman guard Devin Booker has made just three of 16 three-point attempts in post-season play (Jamie Vaught Photo)

If you shoot them, the three-pointers will come.

“I’ve been through shooting times like this before and I’ve always gotten out of it,” Booker said. “Hopefully it comes around right when we need it to.”

And the numbers support his wish: It’s about time for Booker to go through another one of his ridiculous shooting streaks, and there’s no time like the post-season for that to happen.

Booker didn’t even make a three-pointer until the third game of the season, after going 0-for-3 and 0-for-2 in the first two. Then he unleashed a 13-of-19 stretch over the next four games (68 percent). The next two games, he went 0-for-9. Then came the seven-game stretch of 71-percent shooting from behind the arc.

The rest of the season hasn’t seen quite such dramatic swings, but the up-and-down nature has remained.

And that’s fine to Booker, who maintains the same motion, as well as the same belief that it’s going in.

“I think it’s going in. It feels good,” he said. “I actually don’t know what it is, but I’m going to keep shooting and I feel like we’re going to be all right.”

He’s right. Even on the days when he has failed to produce from behind the three-point line, Kentucky clearly hasn’t needed it. His team is 36-0 – the first team in men’s Division I basketball history to do so.

And the Wildcats have found other ways to score, even when they’re not shooting the ball well. They’re 161st in the country in three-point percentage (34.7 percent), but it hasn’t mattered, thanks to the Harrison twins’ new penchant for driving straight to the basket, as well as Karl-Anthony Towns’ ability to score in the post and Trey Lyles being all over the court offensively.

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In the final two weekends of the NCAA tournament? Now that could be a different story. Kentucky’s next opponent – West Virginia – serves as the best possible reminder of the importance of the three-point shot.

The No. 1-seeded Kentucky team in 2010 lost to the Mountaineers after missing its first 20 three-point shots and going 4-of-32 overall from long range.

But again, luckily for Kentucky, the chances of that happening are pretty slim. The off-and-on Booker is set to be on again, and soon.

“They’re going to fall through. It’s just one of those things,” Willie Cauley-Stein said of his teammate’s shots. “They’re going to fall. It’s not like he’s not shooting them. Eventually they’ve got to fall. We’re not worried about it. He’s going to be fine.”

Ashley Scoby is a senior journalism major at the University of Kentucky and a KyForward sports writer. She has reported on the Wildcats for wildcathoops.com, vaughtsviews.com andkysportsreport.com as well as for newspapers in Danville and Glasgow. She will begin a summer internship with Sports Illustrated magazine in New York in June.

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