In the first five games of the season, Crystal Dangerfield was an uncharacteristically poor shooter. She shot under 40% in three of the games and over 50% in just one while not having the success from beyond the arc that she was accustomed to.
Then, she missed two games due to back spasms and has come back stronger than ever, currently enjoying one of – if not the best stretch of her career.
Aside from her first game back versus Notre Dame where she was likely still hurting a bit, evidenced by her fewest minutes in a game this season, she has shot the lights out of the ball. At DePaul, she went 7-for-13 from the field and 4-for-8 from three for 22 points, percentages of 53.8 and 50 that set and tied season highs.
However, those highs would stand for long, as six days later versus Oklahoma she set a new mark, getting 19 points 8-of-14 from the field, or 57.1%. That’s really good, but do you know what’s better? Sixty percent, and that’s just what she did Thursday night versus Wichita State.
It simply seemed like she couldn’t miss, scoring 22 points on 8-of-13 from the field and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, with the percentages of 61.5 and 57.1 each setting new season highs once again.
“Crystal’s best games are when she’s trying to score, when she’s being aggressive, and looks to shoot the ball,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “That’s when plays for other people develop. She’s not as good when she’s passing up shots, going in the lane and looking for people all the time, that doesn’t work for her. And the last couple days I don’t think she’s missed a shot in practice, and I told her today ‘hey, when you get the ball you have to try and score, then if it’s not there, there’ll be a pass.’”
The offensive aggressiveness has been something she has focused on recently, averaging just over one shot more per game in her four following her return from injury than her five before it.
“He [Auriemma] said to look for a shot and the pass will create itself because if you’re looking pass, thinking pass every single time the pass isn’t gonna be there,” Dangerfield said. “That’s really what I’m keeping in my head, and if they don’t guard the shot then obviously you have it and it’s just a matter of knocking it in.”
Dangerfield said she recognizes that the upcoming month of games is going to be big for them, as aside from the normal conference games they face off against Tennessee, Baylor, have a scrimmage versus the U.S. National Team and then get Oregon on Feb. 3.
If they’re going to keep their undefeated season alive, they are going to need Dangerfield to continue being aggressive and scoring the ball.
“I hope she gets 20 something every night, I hope she gets 20 in the first half every night. She’s capable, certainly. She’s hard to guard, that’s for sure,” Auriemma said. “Somebody who can shoot threes from as deep as she is and still be able to get in the lane and make plays. I encourage her to score, I encourage her to shoot more than she’s shooting.”