SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Sophomore center Frank Anselem didn’t even know the score when he stepped to the free throw line in double-overtime against Indiana. Trailing 101-97, the backup center simply walked to the charity stripe and knocked down a pair as if it were no big deal.
On the next possession he secured an important rebound after a defensive stop and was fouled. With Syracuse in the bonus, Anselem repeated his effort from the line to tie the game at 101.
“I thought Frank, he got beat defensively two or three times. But if he doesn’t go to the line and make those four we don’t win,” Jim Boeheim said after the game.
Anselem went 4-4 in crunch time against Indiana. He’s now made eight straight from the charity stripe.
“I’m so happy for him. That was huge, man. That won us the game right there,” Jesse Edwards said of his center counterpart.
Anselem was 5-8 from the free throw line coming into Tuesday night. But that wasn’t indicative of what his Syracuse teammates see in practice. Joe Girard said he wasn’t surprised to see Anselem come through.
“I was proud of Frank. I was confident in him. Like I said, I’ve seen him make them in practice all the time. He always makes them. He works on them a lot. We had all the faith in the world in him. I’m really proud of what Frank did. If he missed them, we would’ve lost,” Girard said.
Toward the end of every practice Syracuse practices its free throw shooting. If players miss, they run. Anselem also makes sure to get in extra attempts once practice concludes.
“After practice, every day I try to make 18 out of 20 shots. Out of 20 free throws. I usually do that easily,” Anselem said.
Cole Swider corroborated his teammate’s self-assessment.
“I think Frank’s just been preparing all along. He puts extra work in and he obviously made big time free throws when we needed it the most,” Swider said.
Prior to the start of the season Boeheim noticed there was extraneous side-to-side motion in Anselem’s free throw shooting form. The head coach suggested Anselem reconfigure his shot and the 6-foot-10 center spent additional time working on his form.
“He’s a hall of fame coach,” Anselem said, heeding his advice.
Anselem has since simplified his shooting stroke without the unnecessary motion by spending extra time with centers’ coach Allen Griffin. He eliminated the side-to-side movement and doesn’t pause once he begins his upward shooting motion anymore. He’s become a more confident shooter in that process.
“It’s mental,” He said. “If you believe you’re going to make it, you’re going to make it.”
His free throws kept Syracuse in the game and ultimately set the stage late. After Indiana’s Miller Kopp made three free throws and tied the game at 110 with seven seconds remaining, Girard fielded the in-bounds, passed out of a trap near mid-court and received the ball back from Jimmy Boeheim. He drove down the lane a drew a foul with .8 second remaining.
As a career 86.1% free throw shooter, Girard went to the line.
“Obviously you’re lying if you say you’re going to the line and not thinking about it,” Girard said of the moment. “Honestly I’ve been in that spot a lot of times, especially in high school. So it’s not new to me. I practice free throws every single day. So it’s just kind of repetition and routine at that point.”
He made both free throws and secured the victory.
“I’m thinking about it in a positive way like, ‘I’m going to win this for my team,’” Girard explained.
Anselem didn’t want to think about how big the moment was when he went to the line as to avoid putting pressure on himself. Girard didn’t think negatively. They both just went to the line and focused on what they’ve been practicing.
“It’s like going to bed at night. Close your eyes and fall asleep,” Anselem said. “I just went up there, shot it, it went in. Thank God. We got the win.”