Boost in McCall’s shooting could lift Billikens offensively

Things could be looking up for Mike McCall Jr. (11) after scoring seven points over the final 12 minutes against Fordham.

Jeff Roberson/AP

ST. LOUIS — Mike McCall Jr. missed his first shot Saturday.

Then the Saint Louis University guard missed his second.

After scoring on an easy breakaway layup, the beneficiary of an unselfish pass from teammate Jake Barnett, McCall missed two more 3-pointers before halftime.

Has it been frustrating?

"Not at all," McCall said following SLU’s 70-48 Atlantic 10 Conference win over visiting Fordham. "I just keep shooting — after practice, before practice — to try to get a flow and get some confidence going."

McCall missed his first 3-point attempt of the second half Saturday before he got one to go down, a 3-pointer from the left wing with 12:14 left. He had missed his first five 3-point attempts, but this one got him going a little bit.

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He scored seven points over the final 12 minutes, including a nifty drive to the hoop with a left-handed finish, two free throws and a 3-pointer from the right corner with 3:00 left.

"In the first half I thought I missed a couple easy shots," McCall said. "But I just keep playing. … I just kept shooting in the second half and the shots seemed to fall."

McCall finished with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting, including 2 of 7 from 3-point range, and grabbed seven rebounds and one steal in 30 minutes of work.

McCall will be a key player over the next two months, one way or the other, but if he can start knocking down shots from the perimeter he could lift No. 24 SLU (17-2 overall, 4-0 in league play) offensively.

McCall went into Saturday’s game with career lows in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage. Those are concerning statistics for a player who has been an integral part of the program’s turnaround from 12-19 in his freshman season to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances under Rick Majerus and Jim Crews during his sophomore and junior campaigns.

In SLU’s three games before hosting Fordham on Saturday, McCall had scored a total of six points in 84 minutes and missed 13 of his 15 shot attempts. He attempted only one 3-pointer and missed it.

Crews is hopeful that the shots that fell for McCall on Saturday — when the Billikens won their 11th consecutive game — mean that the senior guard is breaking out of his shooting slump.

"I thought he was aggressive with things," the coach said. "He did struggle early in the game, and then later I think as the game went on he got a little bit better with it. Mike’s been a good shooter. He has not shot the ball particularly well of late, whatever that definition ‘of late’ means. … He shoots it pretty well in practice."

McCall made 40.2 percent of his 3-point attempts a year ago, which was the best mark on the team and his best in his three years at SLU. But he went into Saturday’s game shooting 29.1 percent this season, with just 16 3s in 55 attempts.

"I think he’s been pressing a little bit," Crews said, "so hopefully we get him through that."