Nick Duncan considers it a sign of respect that opponents still defend him so tightly.
The senior basketball player is fourth all-time in made 3-pointers in Boise State history with 224. The 6-foot-8 Australian is a career 36.1 percent shooter from deep. But in seven games since hitting 4-of-7 threes in a 77-66 win over San Diego State, Duncan is 9-for-48 from behind the 3-point line, including a 1-for-8 performance against Utah State on Saturday.
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In the first 15 games of the season, Duncan had seven games where he hit three or more 3-pointers. In the last seven games? None.
The Broncos (15-7, 8-3) sit atop the Mountain West standings going into Saturday afternoon’s home game against Air Force (10-14, 3-8), but Duncan is admittedly struggling. And he’s trying everything he can to stay positive as he attempts to regain his shooting touch.
“I must be the best 18-percent shooter there is because I don’t get left open much,” Duncan said.
Duncan is taking extra shots before and after practice, more than at any other time in his Boise State career. As he thinks about his slump and tries to remedy it, the senior has reached a conclusion: he’s adding to the problem by dwelling on his misses.
Rather than shooting, Duncan says he’s aiming. Instead of taking short jumpers or driving into the lane, Duncan is determined to make the 3-pointer that breaks the slump. He has attempted only five field goals from inside the 3-point line over the last seven games.
Duncan has tried everything he can to break the drought, and is attempting a career-high 6.6 threes per game this season. He knows he needs to keep shooting, he’s just having trouble staying out of his own head when the shots aren’t falling.
“It’s been on my mind, and I think that’s part of the reason I keep getting in a slump. Probably just focusing on it too much. Every time I get the ball, I’m hoping it goes in,” Duncan said. “I’ve probably been focusing on it a little too much, just trying to get that one (3-pointer) in instead of looking at other areas to shoot.”
To his credit, Duncan has not let his lack of shot-making impact other areas of his game. He’s still rebounding, passing, playing defense and leading his young teammates. If he’s just shooting and missing threes, he doesn’t believe he’s helping anyone.
Head coach Leon Rice knows how valuable Duncan is to the team.
“Nick cares about the team, and Nick does a lot of intangibles. But I think anybody that’s been around Nick for a while knows that ... (his shooting) will come,” Rice said after a Jan. 31 victory at Colorado State. “I have faith in Nick.”
And while his shot isn’t finding the bottom of the net at the moment, Duncan still has the confidence to keep shooting. As long as he isn’t worried about the ones that don’t go in, Duncan knows the best way to make shots is to keep taking them.
He learned that lesson as a sophomore when he endured a 1-for-21 slump over a three-game stretch.
“(You can’t) worry about if you’re going to miss it. If you miss, you miss it. Just shoot the next one,” Duncan said. “I still have to be confident to shoot it, even if it’s not going in.”
Despite Duncan’s struggles, Boise State has surged to the top of the Mountain West standings due to the contributions of junior Chandler Hutchison, sophomore Paris Austin and senior James Reid. The fact the Broncos can win games with Duncan shooting 18 percent from 3-point range is a testament to the growth of the team.
That gives him the confidence to keep shooting, as he knows his teammates can pick up the slack.
“I love this team because they always have confidence in me,” Duncan said. “We’re winning. Just imagine if I was actually hitting shots?”
Boise State’s game against Air Force starts at 4 p.m. Saturday on ROOT.
Through 15 games this season, Boise State senior forward Nick Duncan was shooting near his prior career 3-point percentage of .376. He has put up attempts at about the same rate since a Jan. 7 home win over San Diego State, but he makes them half as often. (Before and After are relative to Jan. 7):
Effective FG pct.
True shooting pct.
Points per game
Rebounds per game
Assists per game
Minutes per game