RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. – The Indiana University Kokomo men’s basketball team continues to learn and progress during its inaugural season, and this week’s lesson was how to hold a lead when the opponent is on a late game roll. Consider it a lesson learned as the Cougars withstood a fierce late game rally by the University of St. Francis (JV) to grab win number four on the year, 80-75.
“We always take a win no matter how they look,” said IU Kokomo Head Coach Jace Thompson. “We are a young team and we will learn from this win.”
IU Kokomo held a slim 35-34 lead after a sloppy first half of basketball in which neither team could find its rhythm. Tied at 44, the second half looked as if it would be much of the same until the Cougars of Kokomo came to life after a 3-pointer by Jared Lawrence (Springport, Ind./Blue River Valley) started a rally that would eventually see IU Kokomo lead by as many as 17 points.
“He is a beast – he is a hard guy to handle,” said Thompson of Lawrence. “It is nice to watch him play. He makes me look like a much better coach than what I am.”
With the help of strong second-halves from Lawrence, Brandon Larrick (Kokomo, Ind./Western), Cameron Richardson (Kokomo, Ind./Northwestern) and Nathaniel Carroll (Daleville, Ind./Daleville), the Cougars were in control until St. Francis guard Brequan Tucker scored back-to-back buckets to cut the lead to nine in the closing minutes. Following a Cougar turnover, Tucker hit a shot in the paint forcing a Kokomo timeout.
“We struggled at times in transition and that caused us to get into a little bit of a funk,” said Thompson. “But it is finding ways to win it, no matter what. You get the W and get out the door and learn to fight another day.”
Kokomo found the way to win by hitting its free throws down the stretch. Carroll was a perfect 6 for 6 and Lawrence was 4 of 5 in the second half as the Cougars finished the game 13 of 19 from the charity stripe.
Lawrence led the Cougars with 14 second half points en route to a team-high 22 points on 8 of 11 shooting. Carroll had 13 second half points and scored 17 for the game, and Larrick scored 13 and grabbed 12 rebounds to post a double-double. Richardson played his best game of the season, scoring 13 points while Aaron Knupp (Springport, Ind./Blue River Valley) added eight points.
“We have guys like Aaron Knupp who I rarely have to talk to during a game because he is usually in the right place doing a lot of good things,” said Thompson.
St. Francis (9-5) was led by 28 points from Tucker, 17 from Taylor Burkhart and 12 from John Degenhardt. Kokomo High School graduate S.J. Moultrie started for St. Francis and scored one point in his return home.
The Cougars (4-11) return to action on Thursday, Feb. 9 for a home game against Grace College (JV). Game time is set for 7 p.m. in the Historic Gym at Western High School.
Story by Dean Hockney.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.