Wichita State Shockers

Free throws keep falling for WSU's Clevin Hannah

Wichita State's Clevin Hannah is a nice young man who undoubtedly would answer questions about his streak.

If asked.

Not wanting to activate the jinx, this story is about Hannah's streak of 30 made free throws — without Hannah's perspective. Instead, his teammates can talk about it.

"He keeps making them," sophomore David Kyles said. "Same thing every time."

Hannah's streak started with eight straight against Texas Christian on Dec. 12. After a miss earlier in the game, he made two free throws with 6:25 to play in the first half and has barely touched a rim since. He added eight against Texas Tech and four against North Dakota State and Illinois State. The streak rested against Drake before resuming with two free throws against Bradley, Missouri State and Creighton.

That's 30 for 30 in eight games. For the season, Hannah is 42 of 44 (95.5 percent). He spent last week leading the nation before Appalachian State's Donald Sims (95.9 percent) passed him by improving to 70 of 73. Hannah, a senior from Holly Springs, Miss., missed his other free throw against Alcorn State on Nov. 30.

"He works his tail off," sophomore Mason Felter said. "He's always getting shots up, working on his free throws. It's obviously paying off for him."

Hannah's streak isn't a taboo topic in the locker room.

"We don't try to ignore it, but we haven't talked about it a whole lot," junior Graham Hatch said. "Clevin is kind of proud of it, but he doesn't brag or anything."

It's different than baseball dugouts, where mentioning a no-hitter is prohibited.

"We're happy with it," Kyles said. "Coach (Gregg) Marshall says something about it every once in awhile."

The numbers do the bragging for Hannah. WSU doesn't keep track of consecutive made free throws outside of single-game performances. Radio broadcaster Mike Kennedy researched the topic several years ago. He credits Ron Mendell with the longest streak — 36 straight during the 1967-68 season. Hannah is third, one behind Joe Stevens' streak in 1957-58.

If Kennedy's marks are added to the Missouri Valley Conference's record book, Hannah is tied for 15th. Missouri State's Blake Ahearn twice made 60 consecutive free throws to top the list.

The streak's real importance is beyond the record books. It symbolizes a team that is hard to beat because it doesn't open the door to rallies by giving away points at the free-throw line. WSU leads the MVC in both accuracy and points from the line.

Hannah is on track to shoot free throws better in a season than any other Shocker. The team's percentage of 76.9 would rank as the best in program history. The marks they are shooting for are C.C. McFall's percentage of 91.0 in 2001 and the 2003-04 team's rate of 74.0.

Depth at the line is a powerful weapon for Marshall. At the end of games, he can play four players — Hannah, Hatch, J.T. Durley and Gabe Blair — who shoot 80 percent or better. For his fifth, he can chose Toure Murry, who shoots 75.4 percent.

"You don't have to worry about, 'Oh, who are we going to put out there to make sure we get free throws made?' or 'We don't want this guy to get fouled,' " Felter said. "You know you're in good hands with whoever has the ball."

The Shockers (15-2, 4-1 MVC), who play at Indiana State (12-4, 3-2) on Wednesday, haven't been tested with numerous close games. When needed, they show confidence and accuracy in most cases. They made 11 straight in the final 1:05 against Texas Tech to hold on for an 85-83 win. They stumbled against Missouri State with three misses in the final three minutes, but Hatch made his two to provide the final margin in a 65-62 win.

Against Creighton on Saturday, WSU made 12 of 13 free throws in the second half to keep the Bluejays from rallying.

"That's a huge comfort to know we have guys who can step up and hit free throws when we need it," Hatch said.