Over four years ago I wrote about basketball at little Grinnell College (Iowa, 1500 students). They play a run-and-gun style that’s fun to watch. Two days ago, Grinnell sophomore Jack Taylor lived the dream of every kid who ever tossed the ball up at a backyard hoop. He broke the NCAA record for points in a game: 138! Here’s the Associated Press story.
How did Grinnell’s Jack Taylor wind up with 138 points in a game?
Well, he did miss 56 shots, more than he made. And he didn’t play for four minutes.
Otherwise he would have scored even more.
As it was, Taylor shattered the NCAA scoring record by 25 points Tuesday night in the Pioneers’ 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible in Grinnell, Iowa.
Taylor hoisted a mind-boggling 108 shots, one every 20 seconds. Layups, fadeaways and 3-pointers (27 of those) were all working in a display that had the NBA’s basketball royalty buzzing a day later, from Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant to Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
“It’s like a video game,” Anthony said. “How can you shoot 108 times?”
“It’s unbelievable, honestly,” James said. “There’s two games that I would love to see: One was Wilt, when he had 100, and this kid, I want to see him, too. Sir Jack.”
Taylor himself was still trying to catch his breath Wednesday.
“Honestly, it’s still not settling in. It was hard to sleep,” Taylor told The Associated Press after appearing on “Good Morning America” and the “Today” show.
Understandably so. Taylor is just a 5-foot-10, 170-pound sophomore from Black River Falls, Wis. How did he score more points than anyone in college history?
Well, he had 58 at halftime. And then he scored 30 more in the first 9 minutes of the second half, draining seven straight 3s at one point.
The Division III record was the first to fall, as Taylor reached 91 points on a 25-footer from the left wing with 11:14 to go. He cracked 100 on a layup less than three minutes later, and with 4:42 to go he drained yet another 3 to pass the NCAA record of 113 set by Rio Grande’s Bevo Francis against Hillsdale in 1954.
In 1953, Francis had 116 against Ashland Junior College but Frank Selvy is the only other player to reach triple figures, scoring 100 points for Division I Furman against Newberry in 1954. The previous Grinnell record was 89 by Griffin Lentsch last Nov. 19 against Principia.
Taylor made 27 of his 71 3-point attempts and was 52 of 108 overall. He had a hot hand, sure, but he plays in an up-tempo system designed to reward high-volume shooting.
Grinnell’s goal is to shoot within 12 seconds of getting the ball, something borrowed in part from the breakneck system Paul Westhead installed at Loyola Marymount in the 1980s. The 3 is the shot of choice — in fact, every player must shoot 100 3s every day in practice — and the four guys who don’t shoot crash the boards.
The Pioneers also press relentlessly on defense, hoping to force a turnover or a quick shot so they can get back to scoring more points.
The style demands fresh legs, and the Pioneers typically substitute every 60 seconds or so.
“It’s just something completely different than you face any other time you play,” said Brian Fincham, the coach at Faith Baptist Bible, a school in nearby Ankeny, Iowa, with fewer than 300 students. “If they’ve got a little bit of ability on you, it’s tough to keep up.”
When coach Dave Arseneault landed at Grinnell 24 years ago, he inherited a program that went from 1965 until 1994 without a winning season. Because of their high academic standards and rural location 50 miles east of Des Moines, winning basketball had simply eluded the Pioneers for decades.
Arsenault wanted to make up for Grinnell’s lack of athleticism and size, and make the game more fun. The Pioneers have won four conference championships with the pour-it-on style but have yet to win an NCAA tournament game, raising questions about whether the emphasis on scoring at the expense of defense and patience doesn’t reflect traditional basketball strategy and sportsmanship.
“Maybe they’re right,” said David N. Arseneault, the co-head coach and the Arseneault’s son. “But the way I look at it is … there’s no chance we would have been able to have even close to the amount of success we’ve had without this system.”
The Pioneers didn’t set out to have Taylor break any records Tuesday night. But after discovering Taylor had 58 points at halftime, they decided to go for it.
“A lot of people are saying it wasn’t the most team-oriented thing to do,” Taylor said. “But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the encouragement and support from my teammates.”
Taylor didn’t leave the game until the closing moments with his team up 70. Arsenault said he thought about pulling Taylor earlier, but after watching him drain six straight 3s in a two-minute span, he couldn’t bear to pull the plug on something so special.
“My thought was ‘Hey, man, the kid’s got it going. I’m going to let him go,'” he said.
Fincham said he wasn’t offended by Taylor’s pursuit of the record. In fact, Fincham decided at halftime that it would try to get at least 50 points for his own player, David Larson, who finished with the quietest 70-point night in the history of basketball. He broke the school record of 47 and gave his teammates a reason to hold their heads high.
“Our students come for ministry,” Fincham said. “They don’t come for basketball, obviously.”
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Note: Grinnell’s current co-coach was the player I wrote about four years ago (and son of the coach who started all this). And here’s another good story that describes this unusual team.
It’s a dynasty!