KOKOMO, Ind. – A month is a long time for a basketball team to go between games. The Indiana University Kokomo Cougars hadn’t played a game since a Dec. 10 matchup against Ancilla College. The Cougars resumed their home schedule on Jan. 6 against Indiana Dabney University, picking up a 91-67 win, which was far from easy.
Like the Cougars, the Lions are in their inaugural season with a group of young players. That is just about the only similarity. Dabney had just three players on its bench while at the same time being more athletic as a whole than Kokomo. The athleticism of the Lions put the Cougars in an early hole.
Dabney’s Steve Hilal opened a 20-2 run by the Lions that left Kokomo in a 23-11 hole. IU Kokomo coach Jace Thompson acknowledged that Dabney’s style of play gave his team fits early in the contest.
“They are very athletic and they fly all over the place,” Thompson said. “They can make good teams look bad because of that.”
Kokomo ended up with 27 turnovers in the game, something that Thompson wasn’t at all pleased about. Picking up the victory soothed the pain, however.
“I told them ‘Good result but bad process,’” Thompson said. “It was a good experience for us. We can watch the tape and learn from it. We have something to work on.”
The Cougars trailed by 14, but, like other times this season, kept their composure and focus. With just under 12 minutes left in the first half, Kokomo brought the big guns. Big, in this case, meaning three-pointers. Kokomo’s Anthony Graves made the first of 15 Cougar three-pointers at 11:56 and started a run that ended with IU Kokomo leading 41-32 at the half. Nate Carroll, Jared Lawrence, and Brandon Larrick all had treys in the run while Dabney struggled from the field – scoring just five points in the last eight minutes.
The second half brought more of the same from both teams. Kokomo continued to fire away from long range, making five three-pointers in the first eight minutes while the Lions remained flat.
“We didn’t get to run any of our sets or ball screens, which is what our system prides itself on,” Thompson explained. “To put 91 points on the board without doing that is a good thing. It shows that we’ve made progress since November.”
Dabney righted the ship and made a run late in the game, cutting a Kokomo lead that had grown to 72-41, to just 77-55 with 5:30 left in the game. The Cougars kicked it up a notch and extended the lead back to the eventual 24-point margin.
Lawrence led Kokomo with 23 points and Graves with 20 points. Carroll had 16 points while Larrick finished with 12 points. Aaron Knupp and Nick George each tallied five points for the Cougars.
The Cougars return to action on Thursday, Jan. 19 at Bethel College. The next Kokomo home game is Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at Western High School.
Story by Steve Geiselman.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.