The goal was to get Jack Taylor out of a shooting slump. He did that. Then he went out and scored the most points ever in a college basketball game.
Taylor, a Black River Falls High School graduate, is about to get his 15 minutes of national fame after scoring an NCAA-record 138 points for Grinnell College in a 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible College on Tuesday night in Grinnell, Iowa.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” Taylor said from a phone in the Grinnell athletic offices more than an hour after the game ended. “I think I’m going to be here for a while.”
He made national headlines, with ESPN.com, USA Today and the New York Times picking up the Associated Press story. He was trending on Twitter and even got a shoutout from NBA star Kevin Durant.
“They tell me it’s going to get really crazy,” said Taylor, whose cell phone went dead not long after the news started to spread. “I think reality will set in soon.”
Taylor, who played a year at UW-La Crosse before transferring to Grinnell, was 52-for-108 from the field and made 27 of 71 3-pointers. He had 80 points in the second half and played 35 minutes.
The previous NCAA record was held by Clarence “Bevo” Francis, who scored 113 points in a 1954 game for Division II Rio Grande.
The 27 3-pointers made also is a record, breaking the mark set by Sami Wylie of Lincoln (Pa.) in 2006.
Grinnell is a Division III school that plays a unique style of basketball focused on shooting as many 3-pointers as possible. It’s called “The System,” and involves shooting 3-pointers as soon in the shot clock as possible, crashing the offensive boards to get more 3-point looks and pressing all over the floor on defense in hopes of forcing turnovers or forcing the opponent to shoot quickly.
But even for Grinnell, this is unique.
Taylor and coach David Arsenault didn’t come into Tuesday’s game with the intent of setting records.
Taylor was 6-for-34 on 3-pointers to start the season — “I shot the ball terribly,” Taylor said — and while he averaged 23.5 points in those two games and Grinnell won both, Arsenault knew Taylor could do better.
“We came in with a game plan after last weekend to leave him on the floor and rotate groups of four around him,” said Arsenault, whose unique system of basketball involves hockey-like line shifts of five players at a time. “He got off to a cold start, might have missed his first three or four shots.
“Then he started to heat up.”
Taylor had 58 points at halftime — he thought he only had 30 or 35 until coaches told him otherwise — and didn’t know where he was at in the second half.
“The goal was to just kind of ride the wave and keep feeding me the ball,” he said. “I’m so fortunate to have the teammates I do to sacrifice their own statistics for me. I appreciate it.”
Taylor, a two-time member of the All-Tribune first team as a Tiger, said his legs were more tired than his arms, and he was feeling gassed at the end of the game.
Arsenault said he thought about giving Taylor a break.
“Right about the time when we were wondering if he needed to come out, he’d make a bunch in a row,” Arsenault said.
Griffin Lentsch scored 89 points in a game last season for Grinnell. He’s a senior on this year’s team, but had just seven points in 14 minutes on Tuesday.
That was done on the road, Arsenault said, and the home crowd of approximately 1,000 people enjoyed every minute of it.
“He had an incredible stretch in the middle end of the second half where he made seven or eight 3-pointers in a row,” Arsenault said. “Each one was more and more difficult to the point of being ridiculous.
“It was a special moment for it to happen in front of his parents and in front of his girlfriend.”
Taylor averaged 20.7 points per game at Black River Falls. After graduating in 2009, he attended Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania before enrolling at UW-La Crosse, where he averaged 7.0 points in 27 games off the bench. He made 39.4 percent of his 3-pointers.
He transferred to Grinnell to play in an offense like this.
“One of my friends Aaron Epps (Black River Falls native) played here and told me about the offense,” Taylor said. “I thought it fit my style of game. It’s what I came here do to.”
And while nobody thought Taylor would break an NCAA record in his third game with the Pioneers, Arsenault knew he was getting a prolific scorer in Taylor, who once scored 48 points in a high school game at Black River Falls.
“He’s certainly capable of leading the nation in scoring,” Arsenault said. “We had that conversation before the season. That’s what he’s capable of, he can score with the best of them.”