Garrett Nitz had a front bench-row seat to history Tuesday night.
The senior point guard from Lincoln Southwest watched teammate Jack Taylor score 138 points to shatter the NCAA scoring record in Division III Grinnell's 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible.
Taylor, a 5-foot-10 sophomore guard from Black River Falls, Wis., made 27 of 71 3-point attempts, was 52 of 108 from the field and sank seven free throws on 10 attempts in 36 minutes.
“It was pretty cool to watch him score that many points,” Nitz said. “I don't really have words for it. It was kind of amazing to watch someone do something and see history being made.”
Taylor had struggled in his debut at the Wartburg tournament last weekend, so Nitz said the Pioneers were supposed to get him the ball as often as possible in the first 10 minutes to help him get his confidence back.
“More or less, the game plan was just to get the ball in his hands and let him break his guy down and let him create shots by himself,” Nitz said. “Everyone was crashing the boards and kicking it back out to him.”
Taylor missed his first few shots but then started to connect. Nitz said at halftime they thought he maybe had 40 points.
“Then coach came in and said he had 58, and we're all like 'Wow.' Coach decided, let's just keep getting him the ball and seeing what he can do,” Nitz said.
Taylor went 32 of 58 — including 18 3s — in the second half, averaging four points a minute. Associate head coach Dave Arseneault said that was against some double- and triple-teams.
“He was just in the zone,” Arseneault said. “It's a tribute to him how easy he can score. He can score from anywhere on the court.”
Rio Grande's Bevo Francis held the NCAA scoring record with 113 points against Hillsdale in 1954. In 1953, Francis had 116 against Ashland Junior College. Frank Selvy is the only other NCAA 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.
Last year, Grinnell averaged 112 points a game with its frenetic offense. The Pioneers send players at opponents in three waves of five, with each rotation usually playing from only 35 seconds to a minute.
“We'll have 15 guys into the game in the first two minutes,” Arseneault said. “So they can stay fresh. We're working to wear down the other team. Normally, they're only playing eight guys. If we can get them tired, we have an advantage because we are fresh and they are not.”
It's a strategy the team developed years ago, so its non-scholarship players could hang with more talented opponents. They've led the nation in scoring for 17 of the past 19 seasons and have ranked first nationally in 3-point shooting for 15 of those years.
“We push the ball up the court, we're running the ball up the court at all times,” said Arseneault, who coaches with his dad, who is also named Dave. “On defense, we press the entire time. We double team the ball wherever it goes. It's a multiple possession uptempo game.”
Grinnell changed its strategy Tuesday night when Taylor got hot, leaving him in and rotating only four players at a time. Nitz said none of the other players were angry about not getting the ball, even though the next highest scorer had just 13 points. They were caught up in the drama.
“We're all excited and happy for him,” Nitz said. “It's cool to be a part of the history books and the record books. Hopefully, he can continue to score as the season goes on and our team can be successful.”
Nitz said Taylor was humble in the locker room afterward, thanking the team for allowing him to score and for helping him have a night he wouldn't forget.
A media frenzy erupted soon afterward. Arseneault said he and Taylor did media requests until 1 a.m. and then started again at 5 Wednesday morning. He's been contacted by ESPN, CNN, NBC, ABC, NPR and Good Morning America, you name it. Jimmy Kimmel Live wanted him to come out for the show, but that would be against NCAA rules, so he did an interview via Skype instead.
Nitz said he was soaking up the excitement. His linescore was five rebounds, one assist, two steals and no shot attempts in nine minutes.
Grinnell (3-0) next plays Sunday at home against William Penn. Could that be Nitz's turn?
“I'm happy if I score 10 points in a game,” he said.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.