Logan Aronhalt keeps producing from long range for the Terps

November 29, 2012
(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

When opposing teams switch to zone defenses, whether sagging into the lane to prevent penetration or pressuring up high to create havoc, Maryland guard Logan Aronhalt’s eyes light up just the same. He’s always loved inching into the corner, slowly slipping behind a zone more focused on stopping the ballhandlers. Aronhalt likes to be ignored, until a chest pass or a bounce pass or a skip pass flies his way. Defenders lunge and scramble at Aronhalt, often too late. He’s already caught the ball, shot it and likely swished it.

The corner three-pointer is often the go-to location for many of basketball’s best shooters. Aside from high-percentage layups, dunks and free throws, the corner three-pointer is statistically the smartest shot on the floor, given its success rate weighted against the extra point it provides from beyond the arc. Though every spot along college basketball’s perimeter is equidistant to the rim — unlike in the NBA, where in the corners the three-point line is closer than the top of the key — gunners still grow up living in the corner, succeeding away from the fray.

Ever since his time at Albany, when Aronhalt averaged 14.6 and 13.8 points per game over his sophomore and junior seasons, respectively, the 6-foot-3 guard has developed an affinity for the corner. He was a go-to scorer for the Great Danes, but his role since transferring this offseason for a graduate year at Maryland has morphed drastically. Now he averages 9.5 minutes per game rather than over 30, playing on worn knees that have slowed him down defensively.

Aronhalt’s opportunities these days are few and far between but come at predictable moments. When Northwestern switched to a second-half 1-3-1 zone during Tuesday night’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup in Evanston, Ill., seeking some way to halt the barrage of points from Alex Len and Dez Wells, Coach Mark Turgeon told Aronhalt to start looking for minutes.

True enough, Aronhalt entered, having not seen the floor since he made a bad entry pass to Len, committed an and-one foul on the other end and earned a quick hook from Turgeon in the first half. What followed was one dagger after another, two from the corner and three in all, as Aronhalt single-handedly broke Northwestern’s zone. This came three days after Aronhalt shot 4 for 4 from beyond the arc against Georgia Southern, widely viewed as his breakout game for the Terrapins.

“I love the corner. That’s my go-to shot,” Aronhalt said with a smile. “I love trying to get behind the zone, just find the open spots. I know Pe’Shon [Howard], Nick [Faust] and Dez will just find me.”

It’s easy for defenders to forget about shooters like Aronhalt. Handling Faust and Wells on the perimeter is a daunting enough task for opponents, especially when they attack the wing in a 1-3-1, drawing the point man down and the wing player up while occupying the post with any one of Maryland’s four post players.

Despite the limited playing time, however, Aronhalt is becoming more and more deadly when called upon to provide instant offense. Aronhalt’s effective field goal percentage, a measure that adjusts for a three-pointer being worth more than a two-pointer, is .833. His true shooting percentage is the same, because he hasn’t attempted a free throw.

Granted, his .625 actual three-point shooting percentage certainly won’t last. Aronhalt was a career .353 percent shooter entering this season. It’s a small sample size and it’s too early in the season to even dream about sustaining this blistering pace, but Aronhalt is simply enjoying starring in his new-found role, albeit from a familiar spot of comfort.

“As soon as they went to the 1-3-1, my eyes lit up,” Aronhalt said. “[Turgeon] put me in, get a couple open shots, and I knocked them down.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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