A team with superior athletes won’t always win on athleticism alone, especially when the opposition leans on its basketball I.Q. and executes its game plan accordingly.
What unfolded Wednesday afternoon at Cougar Gym was a prime example.
The Indiana University Kokomo men used patience and smarts to break down hounding full-court pressure from a much longer, more athletic Salem International squad in a 108-98 victory over the NCAA Division-II Tigers.
The host Cougars put six players in double figures and took advantage of 35 Salem fouls by finishing 45 of 54 at the free throw line, delivering what coach Jace Thompson called his NAIA Division-II program’s biggest win in three seasons.
“We’re built off of I.Q., and when teams want to get out and trap us, our kids are good about sharing the ball and looking the other way,” Thompson said. “[We] defeated them with [our] heads. They didn’t dribble. They looked the zone off. It’s kind of like playing quarterback – you look the zone off, you turn and look the other way and that guy’s going to be open. Every single one of our guys did a good job of being their own quarterback [Wednesday].”
The game was originally scheduled to be played Tuesday, but Salem’s team bus broke down Monday en route to Indiana. After spending over seven hours stranded on the highway, the team went back to its campus in West Virginia and tried again Tuesday, reaching Kokomo at 11:30 Tuesday night.
“But that didn’t beat us,” said Salem coach Randy Unger, a Northfield High School product. His team was whistled for three technical fouls and had four players foul out.
”Our mental approach to the game was not good and we weren’t ready to play,” Unger added. “[IUK] played hard and executed. They’re a well-coached team and did a great job. Our hats are off to them, but our kids didn’t show up to play [Wednesday], and some times that happens.”