STILLWATER — One dribble. Two dribbles. Release.
That's the free throw routine Liz Donohoe developed during a basketball camp when she was in eighth grade.
“Keep it simple,” she recalls the instructor telling her. “One, two, shot.”
Worked then. Works now.
Donohoe currently stands as one of women's college basketball's elite foul shooters, ranking second nationally with a 94.9 percentage (74-of-78), just one-tenth of a percent behind leader Jacqui Kalin of Northern Iowa.
To put Donohoe's accuracy from the stripe in perspective, Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin entered Monday tied for the NBA lead in free-throw percentage at 90.4 percent.
“Her shot is very compact,” OSU coach Jim Littell said. “There's not a lot of range of motion in her shot. There's not a lot of room for error in her shot. Technique-wise, she's very, very sound, plus she's put her time in.”
For much of the season, Donohoe occupied the NCAA's top spot in free-throw percentage. But her streak of 40 consecutive makes — which dated back to Dec. 6 — was snapped when her first attempt against West Virginia rolled off the front of the rim.
Somehow, coaches and staff members kept the streak, which tied Andrea Riley for the longest in school history, a secret from Donohoe. Didn't want to jinx the no-hitter.
But Donohoe admits she started to notice that it had been a while since she had missed from the stripe.
“It does kind of feel like that,” she said. “It kind of makes me a little nervous, when I haven't missed any (in a while).”
So, how'd Donohoe become nearly automatic from the free throw line?
She's always had a natural stroke, which is why she's been such a dangerous outside shooter on the wing for the Cowgirls.
But it's also an area of her game she works at on her own, in addition to free throw drills each practice.
During those private sessions, she'll usually put up between 50 and 75 free throws. If she misses more than five of those attempts, she'll start over.
She doesn't have to do that very often these days.
“You don't see a lot of players anymore that just go shoot a ton of free throws, and she's done that,” Littell said. “I think that's what makes it special.”
Added Donohoe: “I'm a perfectionist. It's good sometimes, but it's also a curse as well.”
In a way, Donohoe's approach at the line sums up her entire on-court mindset — a strive for perfection. Littell calls that his only real critique of Donohoe's game, because she sometimes puts unnecessary pressure on herself.
That had been happening during much of the first half of Big 12 play, which prompted Littell to have a talk with Donohoe before Saturday's contest against No. 1 Baylor about, simply, relaxing. She responded with 24 points, her highest total in seven games.
She also — gasp — missed one of her seven free-throw attempts against the Lady Bears.
“Just start a new streak now,” Littell said.