Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford acknowledged the role freshman point guard Jordan Woodard played against his Pokes in OU’s latest win. Truth is, it was hard to miss.
With 18:17 remaining in the second half, Woodard forced OSU’s Le’Bryan Nash to foul him. That was Nash’s third foul. Nash fouled out of the game later. With 12:18 left to play, Woodard forced freshman point guard Stevie Clark to foul him. That was Clark’s fifth foul, and the Pokes’ fifth of the half.
There was 9:08 left in the game when OSU’s Christien Sager fouled Woodard and sent Woodard to the stripe. That was the Cowboys’ seventh team foul. The Sooners were in the bonus and up 11 after Woodard hit his free throws.
“We didn’t defend very well, and that’s the bottom line,” said Ford in the postgame presser. “When you don’t defend very well, you put yourself in a position to foul. So we did.”
Woodard scored just one point in the first half. In the second half, he found his way into the lane seemingly at will. And, when he did, he was fouled more often than not.
He ended the game with 18 points, and half of those points came at the charity stripe. He took 13 free throws and only seven shot attempts against the Cowboys. The Sooners ended up taking 20 more total free throws (42) than OSU (22).
“I just wanted to keep attacking,” Woodard said. “OSU was in foul trouble early in the game, and Coach (Kruger) wanted me to keep attacking to see if we can further that foul trouble so I could get to the free throw line. That was my mission.”
Woodard is better at carrying out his mission than Ethan Hunt. He’s one of the best in the country at getting to the foul line, and this bodes well for OU. As Dean Oliver points out: “Teams that get to the line more are more effective than teams that make a higher percentage of their free throws. Game-by-game exceptions can definitely exist — there are plenty of games that are lost by a team missing its foul shots — but over the long haul, just getting to the line frequently wins a lot more games than missing a few freebies will lose.”
When it comes to free throw rate — number of free throw attempts divided by number of field goal attempts — Woodard is the only Big 12 player* among the top 10 in the country in free throw rate, according to Ken Pomeroy’s site. He ranks seventh at 100 percent.
*The next best Big 12 player in free throw rate isn’t a guard actually. It is Texas center Cameron Ridley, and his free throw rate is 86.6.
The only other freshman among the top 10 in free throw rate is Virginia Tech guard Devin Wilson. Wilson has taken more free throws (112) than shots (100), but he hasn’t taken more shots or free throws than Woodard.
Heading into No. 23 Oklahoma’s road game against No. 16 Iowa State, Woodard has taken 150 shot attempts and 150 free throw attempts. 115 of Woodard’s 238 points have come courtesy of the foul shot — that’s a whopping 48.3 percent.
Many folks in the college basketball analytics community call free throw rate one of the four factors that win basketball games. It’s certainly one of the reasons Woodard — and consequently OU — have been so good this season.