Sophomore guard Austin Keel is a three-point shooter and is expected to prosper in head coach Keno Davis’ fast-break offense.
When the Winter Springs, Fla. native is hitting shots from beyond the arc, he opens up the floor to give teammates, like senior guard Kyle Randall, an easier drive to the basket and, maybe, a shot at the free-throw line.
But the starting guard for the Chippewas was not providing his cohorts with a pathway to the lane at the beginning of the season.
“It’s been really frustrating,” Keel said. “I’ve never been through a slump like that before.”
He made seven-of-40 shots from three-point range before winter break.
His lowest and highest scoring output to that point came within a week. He had seven points against Bradley on Nov. 28 and then failed to score against Niagara on Dec. 2.
Then something changed.
At the start of a five-game slate when everyone had left town, the three-pointers started to fall.
He shot 50 percent from beyond the arc, making five three-pointers, three away from eclipsing his season total, in the first two games students and faculty were away.
After two performances that were above what he had done previously, he had two sub-par games, but a game against the highest-ranked opponent CMU will see all season gave him more good games than bad ones in the five-game stretch.
He made two-of-three from beyond the arc and both of his two-point attempts, giving him 11 points on the night against No. 2 Michigan on Dec. 29.
“I think I’m starting to come out of it now,” Keel said. “I just got to keep working.”
The Chippewas will be a big beneficiary if he does continue to work.
In the first two games that Keel reached double figures and made shots from the three-point line during the break, CMU had its first and second highest offensive point totals of the season and won both games.
In his third game, they scored 73 against the Wolverines, the highest U-M has allowed this season.
Keel took to the three-point line near the end of Monday’s practice, receiving passes from his coaches with other teammates also taking shots. He said afterward getting acclimated to the new style of play and coming into the gym more has led to a better shooting touch.
He missed his first seven three-point attempts at practice, perhaps fooling anyone watching into believing his cold streak is still present, but, then at one point close to when Davis called an end to practice, he made seven-of-nine, showing what he can do from the three-point line.