Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Points Well Taken

High-scoring basketball games are generally better viewed on paper than by actually bearing witness to them.

No video footage exists of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962. But while the box score is certainly something to marvel at, it probably would grow a little tedious to watch the Dipper take lobs from Guy Rodgers and put up his 63 shots against the New York Knicks’ undersized defense. The myth is always better when shrouded in a little mystery.

The highest-scoring basketball game — college or NBA — came on Jan. 12, 1992, when NCAA Division II Troy State routed DeVry University in Atlanta by the inconceivable score of 258-141.

Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, the numbers are shocking for a 40-minute game played when college basketball teams still had the 45-second shot clock at their disposal:

- Troy State led at halftime, 123-53.

- Troy State beat its own NCAA record for points in a game -— 187 against DeVry the previous season —with over 10 minutes remaining in the game.

- Troy State took 109 three-pointers, making 51.

- DeVry had 44 turnovers, with 28 coming on steals by Troy State.

- Troy State’s Brian Simpson played 15 minutes but still managed to get up 29 shots, 26 of them three-pointers.

- For the game, Troy State averaged six points a minute.

According to the ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia, seven statisticians put their heads together for 57 minutes to compile the final box score.

Troy State’s playing style is easy to understand, coming on the heels of Loyola Marymount’s run-and-gun success in the late 1980s. Don Maestri, still the Troy State (now just Troy) coach, had a team that season that was short in both height and experience, so that style likely gave the team its best chance to win.

Troy State’s players should also be accorded some respect. You need to be in superior physical shape to play that type of game, and the 135 points that Troy State put up in the second half is impressive. DeVry had only seven players, and by the end of the game they were clearly spent.

That said, this is train-wreck basketball of the highest order. Dean Smith or John Wooden wouldn’t stomach this type of game, but it is still hard to look away.

Think of your regular pickup game when you are trying to slog through the last game of the night. Everyone is gassed, every pass is lazy and every shot is an unchallenged three-pointer. That’s kind of how the Troy State-DeVry game played out, except with better-conditioned players.

DeVry didn’t even put up the fa├žade of playing defense. Two of DeVry’s players didn’t even cross halfcourt to play defense on most of Troy State’s possessions. They would wait on their own end for Troy State to shoot, then a DeVry player would try to throw a long pass down the court. This resulted in a majority of those 44 turnovers.

Troy State’s effort on defense mirrored DeVry’s. Coach Maestri was content for his opponents to score as long as they did it quickly. DeVry just quickened the pace by blowing layups and losing control of the ball.

The game almost played out in real time. With only one foul called on a shot attempt, there were only three free throws shot in the game. Troy State had to wait until a ball went out of bounds to bring in its constantly rotating cast of five fresh players.

Basketball purists surely would love to burn any existing copies of this game. But those eye-popping numbers put up by Troy State will always draw attention.

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