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Losing coach, team has no issue with Grinnell's Jack Taylor jacking up the score

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Jack Taylor's performance has irked some people, but not the coach and team he did it against. (AP/Grinnell College)

If there was ever going to be a person to set the NCAA -- and what has to be an all-levels-of-the-universe -- record for points in a game, it would have to be a man named "Jack."

Five-foot-10 Grinnell College sophomore Jack Taylor set the Internet -- hell, the country -- on fire Tuesday night once word of his 138-point performance got out. It was the obvious lead story on SportsCenter, became mandatory copy in newspapers everywhere and has become talking point No. 1 on the day before America's football holiday, Thanksgiving.

The kid's already a sports celebrity, and this won't only be a 15-minutes-of-fame deal. Taylor put on a show that will be talked and written about 100 years from now.

Unless he breaks the record before he graduates.

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(There is plenty of time left for that, but it'll be interesting to see what happens going forward as he, his coach and the program are already catching flak for the gimmicky nature of the performance.)

As the world rushed to get a word from Taylor and Grinnell, I couldn't help but wonder: What about the other guys? Faith Baptist Bible College is on the wrong end of history. So what was it like to coach in this game -- and lose 179-104? At the college level, scoring 104 points almost always ensures victory. Not only that, but the Eagles themselves had a milestone night with a sophomore of their own having his fill of it. Dave Larson smashed a school record, scoring 70 points.

Faith Bible Baptist is coached by 34-year-old Brian Fincham. Not only is he the head coach, he's also the athletic director. In fact, the school's athletic department consists of two people. Until this year, it was only one: Fincham. He had no idea who Jack Taylor was "until a couple of minutes into the game."

I asked him how other people are taking Taylor and Grinnell's performance as a stunt, a mockery of the game. Was he mad to be on the other end of it?

"I wasn't mad at all," Fincham said. "I think it'd be crazy for me to say we had a great defensive strategy. We obviously had no idea they were gonna have a kid score that many points. We did try a double team against him, but honestly, he got really hot for one stretch of the game where he hit seven or eight 3s in a row. I'm not offended by it. There's no hard feelings there."

Fincham and his program haven't been completely overlooked in the wake of Grinnell's glorified one-man mission. He's fielded more than 10 interview requests from around the U.S. since Tuesday night. Faith Baptist Bible is a school of approximately 270 students that's an hour's bus ride from Grinnell College. On the ride home, Fincham said the team was upbeat, aware of the history it was part of. Players were tracking reactions on Twitter.

"I'm not sure this is how we wanted to get publicity, but our guys definitely weren't demoralized," Fincham said. "They have great attitudes and have great perspective on life in general."

Another question some have asked: Since Taylor was scoring so much and piling it on, why not try to foul him hard once or twice to send a message that running up the score wasn't the way D-III ball should be played?

"Physical intimidation, that's just not the type of program we are and not the kind of coaching that I'm gonna do," Fincham said, adding that, despite the jokes thrown his team's way, he did indeed call for a lot of double teams against Taylor.

Part of the reason Fincham has the position he does is because he too played into the Grinnell game plan. At halftime, he realized what was happening and chose to adapt rather than fight it. Larson had 24 and the team decided then and there, trailing 85-46, they were going to help him to 50, to set a school record of their own.

"They let us have layups so they could get him (Taylor) shots," Fincham said. "Their style of play is to press you, put everyone on the back half the court. If you get it past half-court, they'll give you the layup."

Larson wound up with 70 because he cherry-picked in the second half, scooping in layup after layup when Grinnell acquiesced the points in exchange for time and opportunity for Taylor.

Funny thing is, Larson's not the team's leading scorer -- or even a primary scorer. He was just the man at the back of the press. This is his first year playing varsity, and prior to Tuesday, his career high was 13 points. Larson could not be reached for comment Wednesday; Fincham told me he was loaded with classes and preparing to head home for Thanksgiving.

Ironically, the team game-planned for Grinnell senior Griffin Lentsch, who set the D-III record last season by putting up 89 against Principia. In reality, Grinnell coach David Arseneault picked the perfect opponent for this performance because Fincham's team has only 10 players and features just one junior and one senior who are still working on proper team defense techniques.

That's a young team going through an experience, a learning one no doubt, but not for the reasons that seem earnest on the surface.

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