Buford hoping to get shot back.

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Last updated: 03/31/2012 1:29 AM

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Men's Basketball
Buford Hoping to Get Shot Back for Final Four

By Brandon Castel

NEW ORLEANS — The gap between the way William Buford is shooting and the way he wants to be shooting is narrowing.

William Buford works on his jump shot during a practice session in New Orleans.
Photo by Jim Davidson
William Buford

At least that is what Ohio State’s lone senior is hoping as the Buckeyes head into Saturday night’s NCAA semifinal matchup with Kansas. The last time these two teams met on the hardwood, Buford was just 1-7 in the first half before scoring 17 points down the stretch to keep Ohio State in the game.

It has been that kind of season for Buford, who reached the No. 4 spot on Ohio State’s all time scoring list despite the fact he has been in a shooting slump since the middle of February.

Since going 7-9 from the floor against Minnesota on Feb. 21, Buford has made just 40 of his last 113 shots, a 35 percent clip from the floor for a guy who made more than 50 percent of his shots in conference play as a junior.

He is just 13 of 44 in the NCAA Tournament, and seven for his last 25 behind the arc, but Buford is hoping he has figured why his shots are not falling as of late.

“I would push it, or just shoot it and let it go without holding my follow through,” Buford said after watching the film of his games against Cincinnati and Syracuse last weekend in Boston.

“When I hold my follow-through, my percentage is much better, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do this week.”

Buford was a frigid 4-20 from the floor last weekend at the TD Garden, and just 2-7 from behind the arc. He believes the Buckeyes would have lost with those kind of percentages earlier in this season, but they got 35 points from sophomore Lenzelle Smith to make up the difference.

He’s hoping the Buckeyes won’t need that kind of performance for Smith to get by Kansas on Saturday night. It didn’t count for anything, but Buford looked like he had found his shot again during Friday’s practice at the Superdome.

William Buford
Photo by Jim Davidson
William Buford

“I was just holding my follow through, not flicking it up there or just throwing it up there,” Buford said after practice.

“I’m just trying to hold my follow-through and when I do that, there’s a lot better chance of it going in for me.”

Buford’s shooting percentage has dipped from 46 percent as a junior last season to just over 41 percent as a senior. It’s a career-low for Buford, who shot nearly 45 percent from the floor as a freshman in 2008-09.

His three-point parentage is also a career-low, down from a career-high 44 percent last year to just 35 percent this season. Buford admits the lack of success had gotten to his head in recent weeks.

“Sometimes I would catch myself thinking about shots I took,” Buford said, “but my teammates and coaches aren’t worried about that so I shouldn’t be either.”

Buford’s coach, Thad Matta, has never lost faith in his senior. Despite his recent struggles shooting the ball, Buford has hardly been off the court for the Buckeyes, except when he found himself in foul trouble against Syracuse.

He played all 40 minutes against Gonzaga in the second round of the tournament, and all 40 agains in Ohio State’s 77-70 win over Syracuse last Saturday in the Elite Eight.

“He tells me to keep playing and that I’m going to have a great game next time. Just go out there and have fun,” Buford said of Matta.

“Just shoot the ball, not thinking about it, getting to my spots. My coaches and teammates have confidence in me that I can make shots.”

The one thing Buford has done when his shots aren’t going in is hit the glass. The 6-6 guard from Toledo is averaging 4.9 rebounds per game this season, and he has had four or more rebounds in all but four games dating back to the end of January.

He had nine rebounds in the home loss to Wisconsin, and has averaged nearly 5.5 boards a night over the last 13 contests. That includes five rebounds in each of the games against Gonzaga and Cincinnati, along with nine rebounds in the win over Syracuse.

All of that has stemmed from Buford’s lack of contribution in the loss to Kentucky last year in the Sweet 16, but he isn’t thinking about another chance to redeem himself against the Wildcats just yet.

“No, I’m not worried about that at all,” Buford said.

“I’m just focused on this game against Kansas and getting a win Saturday night.”

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