Koenig, Perrantes, Hield are deadly from downtown
MADISON, WIS. >> Just 2 seconds left on the clock with an NCAA Tournament game on the line. Not much time to drive. A shooter must be immune to pressure.
Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig thrives in that moment.
Among players left in the tourney, few may have the record of success from 3-point range that Koenig has had this season.
According to the Badgers, Koenig is shooting a remarkable 54.8 percent (17 of 31) from behind the arc in the final 5 minutes of games and overtime in 2015-16. That's 15 percentage points higher than his overall 3-point average for the season.
"It's just a clutch gene, I guess. That's all it really is," Koenig said after practice Tuesday.
Experience helps, too.
Koenig, a junior, has been an important player for the Badgers since he was a freshman. He's known nothing in his career except advancing to Final Fours.
"Sure, some guys perform under pressure. I don't think that's debatable," assistant coach Lamont Paris said. "We're confident in him and we like the ball in his hands late."
Wisconsin is two wins away from another trip to the national semifinals thanks to another clutch shot from Koenig. His buzzer-beating 3 in the 66-63 victory over Xavier in the second round will be remembered by Badgers fans for a while.
But junior teammate Nigel Hayes wasn't surprised. He and Koenig have played a friendly mini-competition of 1-on-1 for about 7 or 8 minutes during warm-ups before most games since they were freshmen.
"'Make it, take it' in the corner," described Hayes. He's had an up-close look at the kind of step-back 3 that Koenig hit over Xavier guard Remy Abell.
"He hit that shot against me that he hit to win the (Xavier) game," Hayes said. "I've seen it go 1 million times."
And under seemingly more difficult circumstances with the 6-foot-8 Hayes' long wingspan in his face instead of the 6-4 Abell.
Still, making that kind of shot in a real game can never be simulated in practice, Paris said.
That's when intangibles come into play.
"He's been there, first of all," Paris said. "Are you nervous about the responsibility of performing in that situation? And he's not. Simply, he's not."
Here are a few other players left in the NCAAs who could be relied on to take a big shot from the 3-point line:
LONDON PERRANTES, Virginia: Hitting nearly 48 percent from behind the arc, the best mark among players still in the tournament with at least 100 attempts this season, according to STATS. Perrantes hit 4 of 8 3-point attempts in the Cavaliers' first-round victory over Hampton.
Malcolm Brogdon is also a threat from 3-point range for Virginia. When 6-foot-8 Anthony Gill gets going inside, the Cavaliers are especially dangerous.
"When people like (Gill) and Malcolm are going, it opens things up for other people," Perrantes said last week. "Just being able to hit the (open shots), it feels good."
BUDDY HIELD, Oklahoma: The Sooners star is 136 of 294 from the arc, by far the most makes and attempts from 3 among players left in the tourney. He's also second behind Perrantes among current NCAA players in shooting 46 percent from 3-point territory.
The nation's No. 2 scorer is 9 of 20 from 3 so far in the tourney, including a 6-of-14 night in the second-round victory over VCU.
"It seemed like every shot that he had that we needed, he stepped up and made it. And it's not that easy to do, especially with the defense leaning on you and targeting you," Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. "Buddy has been terrific with that at that moment, those moments all year long."
TREVOR COONEY and MICHAEL GBINIJE, Syracuse: Together, the Orange's senior backcourt duo has combined for 177 3s this season. They're in the top 5 among remaining tourney players in both most 3s made and attempted.
Gbinije (41 percent) has displayed more accuracy than Cooney (35 percent). But they've both shot well from behind the arc so far in the tourney, and combined to shoot 7 of 14 in the second-round win over Middle Tennessee State.
SOUTH — #3 Miami vs. #2 Villanova, 7:10 p.m. on CBS
WEST — #3 Texas A&M vs. #2 Oklahoma, 7:37 p.m. on TBS
SOUTH — #5 Maryland vs. #1 Kansas, 9:40 p.m. on CBS
WEST — #4 Duke vs. #1 Oregon, 10:07 p.m. on TBS
MIDWEST — #4 Iowa State vs. #1 Virginia, 7:10 p.m. on CBS
EAST — #7 Wisconsin vs. #6 Notre Dame, 7:27 p.m. on TBS
MIDWEST — #11 Gonzaga vs. #10 Syracuse, 9:40 p.m. on CBS
EAST — #5 Indiana vs. #1 North Carolina, 9:57 p.m. on TBS
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