- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - College basketball had become a wrestling match, bogged down by grabbing, pushing and the occasional takedown.

Scoring was down, shooting percentages, too, and the games often had the flow of rush-hour traffic.

Hoping to open the game back up, the NCAA tweaked its rules this season, the emphasis on preventing defenders from impeding offensive players’ progress with hand checking and arm barring.

After an initial adjustment period filled with hard-to-watch games, the new rules seem to be having the desired effect, increasing scoring while giving the games better offensive continuity.

“We’re very encouraged,” NCAA Division I basketball committee chairman Ron Wellman said. “If you look at every offensive statistic, they have improved this year and that’s a result of the new interpretation of the rules or the enforcement of the freedom of movement principles.”

The changes were put in place after scoring in Division I basketball dropped to 67.5 points per game in 2012-13, the lowest since 1951-52 - long before the shot clock and 3-point shot were added. It was the fourth straight season it had decreased.

Shooting percentages and assists were down, and 3-point shooting was the lowest since the arc was added in 1986.

With the number of foul calls also in decline, the NCAA looked at altering its rules in an attempt to decrease physical play.

No more hand-checking, two hands on an opponent, arm bars or jabbing.

There also was a big change in the block-charge call, requiring the defender to be in place before the offensive player has started his upward motion to attempt a shot or pass. Previously, the defender had to be in defensive position before the offensive player was lifting off the floor.

The new rules weren’t exactly new; most had already been in place, but weren’t carried out to the letter of the law.

What the NCAA did was ask officials to pay more attention to those calls to free up the game.

The new emphasis had the potential to be the biggest change in college basketball since the addition of the 3-point shot.

Well, the shift hasn’t been quite that dramatic.

After an initial feeling-out period, coaches and players adjusted to the way games were being called and the game has become more free-flowing.

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