National : Ratliffe chasing all-time field-goal percentage record

National : Ratliffe chasing all-time field-goal percentage record

first_img Published on February 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Stephen: [email protected] | @Stephen_Bailey1 Steve Johnson didn’t expect his record to be threatened, especially not like this.Working almost exclusively in the low post, the Oregon State center converted 74.6 percent of his shots in the 1980-81 season, setting the single-season NCAA record for field-goal percentage.The mark has stood for more than three decades, but now, it’s being challenged by Missouri forward Ricardo Ratliffe, who often does his damage by cutting and rolling off screens.‘I was surprised that someone was threatening the record because I thought it would take a great passing team with a good low-post player,’ Johnson said. ‘Those two don’t really exist too much in today’s game.’Ratliffe is shooting 71.7 percent on the season and has been far and away the most efficient player in the nation this season. Converting 165 of his 230 attempts, he sits 7 percent ahead of Iona’s Mike Glover as the nation’s shooting-percentage leader.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThough he does trail Johnson by two full percentage points, Ratliffe has three more regular-season games plus postseason play to try to break the record.Ratliffe said he is focused on winning those games, but the senior also admitted he can’t help but think about the record.‘When you hear about it every five minutes, it gets ingrained into — you think about it all the time,’ Ratliffe said to media before practice Feb. 13.He is also a large reason why the Tigers (25-3, 12-3 Big 12) are one of the most difficult teams to defend in the country. Starting alongside four guards, Ratliffe has taken advantage of MU’s slew of sharpshooters.‘He’s the perfect complement to their basketball team,’ Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said on the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference Feb. 13. ‘When you’ve got shooters like Missouri has on the perimeter, who may be the best shooters in the country as far as four or five guys that are just dead-eye shooters, and a low-post player that can just score, score, score, that’s a pretty impressive combination.’At the start of the year, opponents often focused on limiting the Tigers’ perimeter shooters. Guards Kim English and Marcus Denmon are connecting on 45.6 and 40 percent of their 3-pointers. And three other shooters — Michael Dixon Jr., Phil Pressey and Matt Pressey — are capable of knocking down open shots, leaving Ratliffe plenty of room to maneuver the paint.This came back to bite No. 13 Baylor on Jan. 21, when Ratliffe dropped 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds.Opponents are now focusing on stopping the nation’s most efficient scorer, forcing the Tigers to win games with jump shots.Entering Missouri’s Feb. 11 rematch against the Bears, Ratliffe was actually on pace to supplant Johnson on the all-time leaderboard, shooting 75.5 percent from the field. The Tigers won again, 72-57, but a 3-of-9 performance from Ratliffe — his second-worst of the year — diminished his percentage and chances of breaking the record dramatically.‘It wasn’t frustrating because I was worried about the percentage. I just didn’t think I played as well as I could have,’ Ratliffe said to the media Feb. 13. ‘But we have so many great players that we’re still able to win a game, even though just one guy may not be on his ‘A’ game that night.’Baylor head coach Scott Drew said he was pleased with his team’s defense against Ratliffe, but he also recognized the difficulty his team had in slowing the Tigers’ scoring, calling them a legitimate national contender.And whether Ratliffe breaks Johnson’s record, Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said he has been the undoubted key to Missouri’s success this year.‘Without him, they would not be where they’re at by any means,’ Kennedy said on the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference Feb. 13. ‘He’s a true post threat that you have to give spots to on the defensive end. With those guards shooting the ball as well as they are, he’s done great things for them.‘I don’t think they’d be anywhere near where they’re at without him. He’s proven to be one of the better big men in the country. He’s a senior, and he’s playing like a senior.’For Ratliffe, his journey to Missouri ran through Ocala, Fla., where he spent two years at Central Florida Community College. Under the direction of head coach Tim Ryan, he averaged 27.4 points on 63 percent shooting and 11.3 rebounds his sophomore year. After that breakout season, Ratliffe was rated the No. 1 junior college prospect by Rivals.com.Ryan credits Ratliffe’s touch around the basket for his success. Almost always the tallest and heaviest player on the court, he still shot 44 percent from 3. And in practice, the head coach said Ratliffe was the first player on the court each day, tirelessly working on hook shots and other inside moves.‘He has tremendous touch inside,’ Ryan said. ‘I think that separates him from 99 percent of the rest of the bigs.’ Now leading the country in shooting percentage, Ratliffe’s extra repetitions with the Patriots have paid off. He averaged 10.6 points on 57.1 percent shooting as Big 12 Newcomer of the Year last season. And this year, he’s established himself as a premier scorer.Record or not, Ratliffe is poised to lead the Tigers to a deep postseason run, but surpassing Johnson’s mark would cement his legacy in college basketball.‘So many of the guys today, the big guys are just picking dummies,’ Johnson said. ‘They just go out and set screens for guards and forwards to come off and shoot, but he’s setting picks to get those shooters open, draw the double and then he ends up getting the bucket.‘That’s something that you don’t see too often today.’[email protected] Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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