Friday, December 4, 2009

Tough night for "The System" ...

... and the Pioneers. The Beloit Buccaneers rally from a second-half deficit, then hold off a late comeback by Grinnell to win 91-90 at Darby Gymnasium on Friday night.

Poor Matt Chalupa missed from in close in the final seconds, a basket that would have given the Pioneers the lead and likely the victory. He rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Matt Skelly and likely was surprised at how open he was. Of course, the clock also was ticking down, so he probably rushed it a little bit.

As coaches and others always say, that last shot didn't lose the game. It was a combination of things, and you always need to give credit to the other team. Beloit shot 70.6 percent from the field (36-of-51 for the game) to overcome 28 turnovers, with Travis Towns scoring 20 of his 32 points in the first half.

Other highlights from the box:

  • Grinnell remains very likely the only team in the country, in any college division, not to allow a made 3-pointer all season. Opponents now are 0-for-7 from beyond arc against the Pioneers, with Beloit failing to add even a single attempt.
  • Pioneers guard Scott Kaitz, the best option at point guard with the oft-mentioned departure of young David Arsenault, played 26 minutes. For most players, on most teams, that wouldn't be a lot, but it's a yeoman's effort in "The System." Most of the time, 20 minutes is a long night. Kaitz was solid with 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal.
  • Grinnell forced 28 turnovers, which included a game-high three steals from Marques Valdez. This was in only 8 minutes of run for the freshman from Phoenix.
  • A total of 18 players saw action for the Pioneers, including 14 getting on the floor for at least 7 minutes. The other two seeing the most PT were Skelly and freshman Griffin Lentsch, both with 21 minutes.
  • At some point, you've got to figure Grinnell will start dropping some 3s. Each half was pretty brutal: 5-for-25 before the break, 6-for-23 after it. That's a 22.9 percent clip and includes Skelly's 2 of 12 effort.
  • Beloit did a great job of making the Pioneers play defense for the entire shot clock on many possessions, when there wasn't a turnover or a layup.
  • The outcome might have been different if Grinnell had done a little better than 8-of-16 at the free throw line in the second half. Of course, Beloit wasn't much better, finishing at 59.4 percent for the game.

Other highlights from our visit to campus and to Darby:

  • The gym is beautiful, as befitting a structure built only four years ago. It's actually buried into the ground, so when you enter at street level, you actually walk down to the court.
  • The campus also is very nice, even if the weather today was less than ideal. The temperature never made it out of the 20s, and snow fell from time to time throughout the day. Even so, several people were out jogging, which I couldn't believe.
  • The bookstore is full of sweet gear, and Tim and I made sure we got ours. We wore some of it to the game, too, where we fit in perfectly. And before you spout some doubt about my journalistic integrity, I never claimed to have any on this trip!
  • A rowdy section of students kept everyone entertained. At least one security guard was assigned to the group all night, I guess to keep them under control. The funniest comment? The Beloit coach, Brian Vraney, got so upset at a call by one of the officials that he pulled off his tie with a dramatic flourish. As he walked off the court following the game, carrying said tie, somebody said with perfect timing: "Nice tie, Coach."
  • I was able to spend a few minutes with Grinnell junior center Kale Knisley earlier in the day, great kid who plans eventually to become an attorney. That made it even worse for me when he got posterized by Beloit's David Bremner on a fast break. Sure, Kale likely got the last laugh, since Bremner correctly was called for a charge as he dunked all over Kale, but it still was something you don't expect to see at a Division III game. The 6-foot-5 Bremner did have a tattoo of some Asian symbols on his right arm, so maybe that helps explain his stupid hops.
  • No worries about tickets selling out; they don't have any! Yep, that's right, just come as you are and stroll on in to find a seat.
  • You can read about it, hear about it and see it on the Internet, but until you watch it with your own eyes, the substitution pattern is unreal. The first shift ended at 26 seconds, with five new players taking the court, and it hardly slowed down later.

Now for the absolute highlight of the night: Tim and I were invited to join the team in the locker room before the game by Davey Arsenault, the assistant coach. He extended the offer earlier in the day when Tim and I spent about 75 minutes or so in the basketball offices, doing the interviews for a magazine piece I plan on Grinnell.

It was a bit difficult staying out of the way in the locker room, too, with nearly 20 players and three coaches. I won't get into specifics of the knowledge Coach A dropped on the boys since it isn't my place, but suffice to say it was an incredible insight into the program. He did note our appearance: "Oh, the fellas are coming in!" What a thrill.

The loss drops the Pioneers to 1-5 on the season, and 0-1 in the Midwest Conference. They get a chance to end their five-game losing streak on Saturday against Ripon, Game 2 of our trip. Tip is scheduled for 4 p.m. locally, 5 p.m. EST.

1 comment:

  1. Tough luck for the Pioneers! I am not sure which would be worse, missing the winning the layup or having the last name Chalupa! I am sure he hears the Taco Bell jokes every now and then. Well, maybe the fortunes will turn around tomorrow. Tell Moonlight I said hello.