Graves is the only player on the Cougar squad who isn't a freshman, who isn't new to college basketball. So when it came to crunch time Thursday night here against visiting Grace College (JV), it was Graves that Thompson turned to and it was Graves that came through in the clutch. Trailing by two (79-78) with seven seconds left, IUK inbounded the ball to Graves who went the length on the court, driving hard to the basket. His shot was off, only because he had been fouled in the act of shooting.
Graves calmly sank both freebies with :01 showing, Grace's long inbounds was off the mark and the Cougars were celebrating a 80-79 home victory.
"We didn't have a set play in case (Grace) missed a free throw," Thompson said afterward. "Just that (Graves) was supposed to drive and create or drive and kick it out – we had a three-point shooter in the corner. When he went to the line, I had a lot of confidence that he would sink them both."
Graves finished with a team-high 20 points, despite not getting his usual start in the backcourt.
"Anthony is a very capable player but he needs to toughen up on defense," Thompson said. "He did some things in practice ... let's just say we needed to motivate him. If he was as intense on defense as he is on offense, he would be one of the best players in NAIA."
Graves did provide a spark midway through the first half, hitting consecutive baskets for the Cougars including a three-pointer from the right win that tied the game at 31. Cameron Richardson and Nathaniel Carroll followed with treys of their own, igniting a 9-2 run to end the first half, putting IUK up 40-35 at the break.
IUK held that lead until about four minutes remained when a lay-in and a free throw from Grace's Morgan Michalski put the Lancers up 72-69. With just over a minute to play, a put back from Brandon Larrick eased IUK into a 76-75 edge, heading into the dramatic final seconds.
Grace was led by Jared Treadway, a graduate of Northwestern High School, who scored a game-high 34 points, including 20 in the first half. Thompson said the goal was to put the clamps on Treadway or 7-foot Adrian Makolli, both of whom had big games against the Cougars earlier in the season. Makolli finished with just seven points on 3 of 6 shooting.
IUK balanced its attack with 18 points from Jared Lawrence, 16 from Carroll and 11 from Larrick. Lawrence scored the Cougars' first 11 points in the second half. IUK outrebounded Grace (32-24) behind six boards from Richardson and Larrick, and five from Aaron Knupp and Lawrence.
Story by Mike Geiselman.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.