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Sunday, December 2,2012

138-point basketball college scoring record nothing to sneeze at

By Wes Mayberry

Most collegiate basketball players would love to be able to score 70 points in a game all by themselves. That's just what Faith Baptist Bible College's David Larson did in a Division III game on Tuesday, Nov. 20, but this performance was not the highlight of the contest. Instead, a member of the opposing team broke a seemingly unbreakable record. Playing in a home game in Grinnell, Iowa, Grinnell College sophomore Jack Taylor scored 138 points in his team's 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist.

Taylor, who had 58 points at halftime and eclipsed the NCAA single-game scoring record of 113 points set by Rio Grande (Ohio)'s Bevo Francis in 1954, ended with astounding statistics. He finished the game making 52 of 108 shots from the floor including 27 of 71 from three-point range. He also made seven of 10 free throw attempts to round out his 138 points in 36 minutes of action.

To put these numbers in perspective, consider the Ohio Bobcat basketball team's recent game against Saint Bonaventure. In that game, the two teams combined to score 133 points on 94 attempted shots from the floor that included 40 three-point attempts.

While Taylor was celebrated in numerous media outlets that night and the following day, writer Barry Petchesky called the achievement "bullshit" and "just the latest incarnation of Grinnell's decades-old strategy of seeking media attention for records achieved through a complete bastardization of basketball."

Petchesky supports his claim by citing the game philosophy of Grinnell head coach David Arseneault, who got the job in 1989, and, in Petchesky's words, has since "focused less on putting together a successful team and more on getting his players' names in the record books." This assertion is evidenced in two of Arseneault's former players receiving national attention for their single-game scoring outputs (Jeff Clement scored 77 points in 1998 and Griffin Lentsch scored 89 last season).

In the Dec. 3 issue of Sports Illustrated, columnist Phil Taylor (no relation to Jack) wrote that the "138-point game could not have been more distorted if it had been played before a fun-house mirror." Phil was left unimpressed with the record-breaking performance because it came as a result of Jack's teammates passing up their own shots in favor of dishing the ball to Jack "as if they were under hypnosis."

I happen to disagree with Petchesky and Taylor. No matter what strategy a coach employs, the most important goal is to win games. Coaches without a respectable number of wins on their resumes won't find themselves employed long because winning is always the bottom line. What's more is that even though Grinnell's playing style may be somewhat exaggerated, it's still a variation of the run-and-gun style employed by many teams across the country, most notably the NBA's Phoenix Suns. Under this style, defense takes a back seat to the focus on a potent offensive attack. Each coach has his or her style of play they wish to use, and they shouldn't be condemned for it if it breeds success.

Like Phil Taylor, Petchesky also states that legitimate records should "come naturally in the flow of competition, not as some freak-show designed to make 'SportsCenter.'" I also disagree with this reasoning for the record being downplayed. This was a competitive contest featuring two teams striving to win a basketball game and certainly not a derivation of the Harlem Globetrotters. Yes, Taylor was playing against Division-III competition, but he is a D-III player himself. Another reason I find this feat to be so impressive is that it would be extremely difficult to replicate even in a one-on-one pickup game played for more than an hour.

Even Taylor himself fell far short of that lofty measure in his next game. In a 131-116 loss to William Penn University on Sunday, Nov. 25, the Wisconsin native made just six of 21 shots, including three of 13 from long-distance, and scored a meager 21 points. The ball may not have come Taylor's way as much that night, but his unimpressive shooting percentage justified his lack of scoring opportunities. Had he been hot from the floor like he was in the previous game, his teammates likely would have repeated the strategy of always passing him the ball and Grinnell probably would have won.

Even though some sports media have scoffed at this new record, several NBA players were extremely impressed with Taylor's play. Count Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant – who scored a career-high 81 points in a game in 2006 that stands as the second-best single-game scoring mark in NBA history – among them.

"That's crazy, man. I don't care what level you're at," Bryant told the Associated Press. "Scoring 138 points is pretty insane."

Insane may be putting it lightly.


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