3-point aces have forced defensive changes

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BYU’s Jimmer Fredette and Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins rarely get to the 3-point line before they are being hounded by a defender.

Leave them alone, they’re likely to take a long shot and score. Pay too much attention, they’re likely to find an open teammate closer to the basket.

A quarter-century of 3-pointers in college basketball and deep-shooting threats like Fredette, Jenkins, Ohio State’s Jon Diebler and Ben Hansbrough at Notre Dame have certainly changed how coaches prepare their defenses.

“Our motto is defend the 3-point line,” Arizona guard Lamont Jones said.

That is an emphasis for the Pac-10 champions under second-year coach Sean Miller, who led Xavier to four consecutive NCAA tournaments before moving to the desert. The Wildcats are among the nation’s best, allowing opponents to make only 29 percent of their 3-pointers.

“You’ve just got to be relentless. Coach, that’s what he preaches and preaches every day,” Jones said. “When we don’t do it, he gets on us and makes us do things that we don’t want to do. … It works to our advantage and I think that once we saw that, we bought into it .”

While Vanderbilt has one of the nation’s top individual 3-pointer shooters in Jenkins (3.1 per game), the Commodores are tenacious defensively beyond the arc.

“When there was no 3-point line, you really wanted to defend the basket and you wanted to defend the lane area,” Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said. “The 3-point line has changed some philosophies defensively.”

In their opening NCAA tournament game, the No. 5-seeded Commodores will get their long-range defense tested by Richmond, which is 10th nationally making 40 percent of its 3-pointers.

Arizona, BYU and Vanderbilt are all in different regionals for this year’s NCAA tournament, the 25th since the 3-point shot was instituted by the NCAA. That bracket separation is probably good news for the Wildcats, also a No. 5 seed and opening against Memphis.

Fredette had a career-high nine 3-pointers against Arizona in a 49-point game in December 2009. He had another 33 points vs. Arizona this season, though he had only three 3-pointers in that game.

Fredette, the nation’s leading scorer with 28.5 points and 3.3s a game, will take shots from well beyond the arc. He will make it from deep left on one possession, then come down and hit a similar shot from the other side.

“I feel like I’ve always been able to shoot those types of shots,” Fredette said. “But this year I’m having more of a green light to shoot them because coach saw that I can make them and my teammates have confidence that I can make them, and (defenses) have to guard me out there.”

BYU opens the NCAA tournament against Wofford, which is sixth nationally making 41 percent of its 3-pointers.

With defenders picking up shooters outside the 3-point line, more space opens up and can provide the opportunity for more offensive options.

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