Cougars coming together as a team, says Coach Thompson
The Indiana University Kokomo Cougars collected their first home win of the season, 79-61, over Goshen College on Thursday night at Western High School. The win represents more than just another mark in the victory column, however, according to Coach Jace Thompson. The effort put forth against the visiting Maple Leafs shows something else.
“Everyone is starting to know each other’s roles,” Thompson said. “They know where Nick (George) is going to be because Nick’s a spot up shooter. They know where Anthony (Graves) is going to get the ball. It goes right down the line. They are starting to get to know each other better. Defensively they are playing together. When everybody does what they are supposed to do, it works well. When one person breaks down, it goes the other way.”
Defense was the key word for the Cougars against the Maple Leafs. Kokomo’s defensive effort limited the number of scoring runs by Goshen. For the home crowd, it was a different sight than the Cougars effort in the first home game against Bethel College on November 17.
“We’ve had more time to work on man defense,” Thompson explained. “The first home game we didn’t have any of the man stuff in. The guys have concentrated on that the past two weeks and it showed tonight. Our help side defense was much better. Everything was much sounder. They played together as a team. They relied on each other. It was a great team win because they focused on the things we’ve been working on the last two weeks.”
While manning-up on defense, Kokomo was firing away on the offensive end. The Cougars finished the first half with seven three-pointers, which allowed them to lead most of the first half. A late charge by the Maple Leafs gave the visitors a 34-33 halftime lead. IU Kokomo wasn’t shy about shooting in the second half either. Graves scored the first two baskets of the second half to give the Cougars back the lead – something they wouldn’t give back. Kokomo opened the second half with an 11-3 run. Graves led all scorers with 23 points with 19 of them coming in the second half.
While the Cougars are used to Graves leading the way, the real difference, according to Thompson, was the effort of the bench players. One bench player in particular, former Kokomo High School player Joe Meriwether, had his best game of the season, scoring 13 points. Thompson was glad to see Meriwether score some points but more impressed with the effort he offered when he didn’t have the ball in his hands.
“Joe was the only one that was able to control (Goshen’s Kyle) Capps defensively,” Thompson said. “He’s shown flashes of good minutes, but tonight he earned them. Guys on the bench were saying he earned it. He came in played good defense and he rebounded. That’s all you can ask from a bench player.”
The fact that the other players were rejoicing in Meriwether’s success speaks volumes, Thompson said.
“You know the culture is starting to be what it is supposed to be when the guys start to celebrate someone else’s success like that,” he said. “They are starting to do that. That’s a sign that program is becoming a program. It’s not just a group of guys out there playing.”
In addition to Graves and Meriwether, IU Kokomo was led by Nathaniel Carroll, who scored 13 points, and Jared Lawrence, who finished with 11. Aaron Knupp added six points for the Cougars.
IU Kokomo returns to action on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at home against Marian University, a team that beat the Cougars back on November 15 by 30 points. Tip-off at Western High School is at 7 p.m.
“Hopefully we can turn it around this time against Marian,” Thompson said. “We’ve improved defensively. We aren’t the same team we were then.”
Story by Steve Geiselman