St. Louis University guard Mike McCall is not shooting well this season.

That fact is not in doubt. Effectively two-thirds of the way through the season entering tonight’s game at Duquesne, McCall is shooting 38 percent from the field, which would be the lowest rate in his four seasons with the Billikens. His 3-point shooting has gone from 40 percent last season to 29 percent this season. Even his free-throw shooting, which has always been one of his strengths, has fallen from 82 percent last season to 67 percent. In the past two games, he’s four of eight at the line.

But all that does not mean McCall is not playing well.

He remains a strong defensive player, has the best assist-turnover ratio on the team and has even morphed into a rebounder, despite often being the shortest guy on the court at 6 feet. He’s averaging 3.8 rebounds a game, 1.5 above his career average entering the season. He already has more games this season with four or more rebounds than he had all last season. He has had seven in each of the past two games. Earlier this season, he had a game with nine rebounds.

“He’s been consistent,” SLU coach Jim Crews said. “He’s always been a good defensive player for us. He’s good at being ball strong for us.

“What makes our guys pretty good is they can struggle from that area, and they’re still pretty consistent defensively. It’s not the whole world. Their self-worth is not wrapped up in knocking the ball in.”

McCall made four of nine shots against Fordham on Saturday, a promising sign though only one game. In the three previous games, he had made just two of 15 shots, lowlighted by an 0-for-eight game at Rhode Island. He had 12 points against Fordham, a number he had bettered only once since November.

“In the first half (when he was 0 for four on 3’s), I thought I missed a couple of easy shots,” McCall said. “I kept shooting in the second half and the shots seemed to fall. I’ll keep shooting after practice, before practice, getting in a flow to get some confidence going.”

“I think he’s pressed a little bit,” Crews said. “He’s taken some shots that he normally has not taken on occasion because he’s missed some shots he normally makes. So hopefully we’ll work our way through that.”

Most of the time, you can’t fault the shots McCall is taking. They’re open looks that he has knocked down in the past.

“Mike missed a couple shots in the first half (against Fordham), and so did I,” said forward Jake Barnett, who has shown signs of emerging from his own shooting slump in the past three games, “and I told him to keep shooting. Those are great shots, they’re in rhythm. It’s in the percentages. They will fall eventually. I think with him he has to keep that confidence up. We have full confidence in Mike to shoot those shots. I think it’s only a matter of time until they start to fall.”

McCall also knows that good defense is a way to get his offense going. By forcing turnovers and making steals – of which he has the most, barely, on the team – he can get easy baskets that can build that confidence and get his outside stroke going. Or get to the foul line, something he is also on pace to do far less often this season.

“If I’m struggling on offense, I can do other things to help the team out,” he said. “I just came out to a slow start. … I’m the type of player who can play off my defense. With steals and rebounding, I can push it and try to score off that. If the offense isn’t clicking, I still have the defensive end.”