WKU’s offense powered by hot three-point shooting

Tyler Mansfield

WKU’s three-point shooting has come alive as of late.

The Hilltoppers (11-11 overall, 5-4 Conference USA) knocked down nine shots from beyond the arc in their 65-62 win over Texas El Paso on Thursday, and followed that showing by nailing 10 on Saturday in their 81-66 cruise past Texas San Antonio.

One of WKU’s top three-point shooters is junior forward Justin Johnson. After recording just one three-pointer on nine attempts last season, the Hazard native has already hit 17 so far in this year’s campaign, including going 3 for 6 in his team’s victorious homestand. He is currently shooting 46 percent from that territory.

“One thing you’ve seen he’s done this past season – and this is the thing we worked on – he expanded that game [from the] three-point line,” Head Coach Rick Stansbury said of Johnson. “He makes one three-pointer all of last year, correct? And it was a luck shot – is that right? Threw it in at the buzzer.”

When Stansbury was told how many threes Johnson has made thus far, he was quick to compliment his veteran forward.

“My point is … that’s pretty good,” Stansbury added. “It’s probably bad coaching for not letting him shoot more. I probably need him to shoot more. I feel good about him shooting it.”

While Johnson’s improvement from beyond the arc has been very recognizable, the Toppers’ premier deep-ball shooters are graduate transfer guards Que Johnson and Pancake Thomas.

The two have combined to make 88 three-pointers on the season, and both carry over 30 percent showings on shots around the perimeter.

Que Johnson had some shooting struggles entering Saturday’s contest against UTSA in Diddle Arena, but he put them aside and knocked down big-time shots with confidence in the victory over the visiting Roadrunners.

“It definitely felt good – especially from last game,” Que Johnson said. “Early I focused on getting to the basket a little more and try and get some easy ones and then focus on my outside shot. It just came to me. It was just a good showing out for me.”

On Thursday’s matchup with UTEP, Thomas came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. He scored 25 points, powered by seven threes, and helped the Toppers spark a new winning-streak. In the post-game press conference, the former Hartford guard was asked when he knew he had his rhythm.

“I would say before the game,” Thomas replied. “I was just getting shots up and a lot of them were going in. I was doing a competition, like best out of 10, and I was getting like eights and nines, so I knew it was on tonight.”

Justin Johnson, already a part of the three-point shooting side of things, stressed the importance of his teammate’s shot-making ability.

“He knocks down shots,” Justin Johnson said. “That’s what you need.”

Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-745 6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @RealTMansfield.