KOKOMO, Ind. - The latest chapter in the ongoing development of the Indiana University Kokomo basketball program unfolded Tuesday night at Western High School before a large crowd and 10 potential recruits to the program.
Everyone who purchased a ticket certainly got their money's worth as the Cougars and the visiting Lindenwood University - Belleville Lynx put on a show that wasn't decided until the last seconds of the game. The cat fight ended with the Cougars falling to the visiting Lynx, 87-85. Coach Jace Thompson was pleased with the effort of his team after the game, if not frustrated with the outcome.
“We battled back,” Thompson said. “They had some severe matchup problems with us. We showed signs that typical first-year teams don't show.”
The Cougars took control of the game early in the first half, building a 15-6 lead in the first four minutes. The more experienced Lindenwood team found its stride and most of the first half was back and forth. Things went flat for the Cougars late in the first half and the Lynx ended the first stanza with a 4-0 run that would continue nearly four minutes into the second half. IUK’s Anthony Graves made pair of free throws at 15:49 of the second half that ended a 24-0 Lindenwood run. The Cougars faced a 15-point deficit but, like Thompson said, they battled back.
“We aren't doing things like we did at the first of the year,” Thompson explained. “Things are more complex. I don't know what this game would have been like three months ago.”
Fueled Graves’ effort, the Cougars steadily cut into the Lynx lead, finally tying the game at 72 with 5:08 left. From there the sparring continued until the last minute. Lindenwood took the lead, 85-81, with 28 seconds left. IUK’s Nate Carroll converted a layup on the other end to make 85-83 with 18 ticks left.
The Cougars fouled and Lindenwood’s Allen Siedle missed the front end of a one and one. The Cougars rebounded and Carroll once again laid the ball in for an 85-85 tie with nine seconds left.
Following the Lindenwood timeout, the Lynx moved the ball up the court after a breakdown by the IUK defense, and Matt Sturdivant’s shot off the glass at three seconds gave the visitors the 87-85 lead.
“We didn't want to get so far stretched out from them,” Thompson said of the last Lindenwood play. “We said keep everyone in front of you. We had a break down and we came up hill to help, which you aren't supposed to do.”
But there was time for one more play and Thompson signaled time and gathered his troops on the sideline.
Taking a play out of Homer Drew’s Valparaiso playbook, the Cougars’ Brandon Larrick threw the ball the length of the court to Aaron Knupp, who quickly made the pass to Graves. Graves’ three-pointer for the win went long off the back of the rim.
“That is exactly the play we wanted to run,” Thompson said. “It’s the play they ran for Bryce Drew at Valpo. We got a good look but it didn’t go in. It happens sometimes."
The Cougars were led by Graves with 33 points, all of them coming in the second half. Carroll and Jared Lawrence each tallied 12 for IUK and Larrick finished with 10. Lindenwood was paced by guard Todd Starks with 28 points and Nick Souders with 18.
From here, the Cougars take to the home court again on Thursday, February 2, against St. Francis University with a 7 p.m. start at Western High School.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.