NEW ALBANY —
Throughout college basketball this season, especially in the NCAA Division I ranks, scoring has been on the decline as more games are in the 50’s and 60’s.
But the IU Southeast men’s basketball team has not gotten the message about the low-point totals.
The Grenadiers (18-3, 8-0 Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) have been on a scoring tear as of late.
They have tallied 95 or more points in eight of their last nine games. Also during that nine-game stretch, they have cracked the 100-point barrier four times in utilizing their full-court, up-tempo style. The scoring surge has occurred during IU Southeast’s 12-game winning streak.
As a result, IU Southeast has become the third-highest scoring team in NAIA Division II at 89.9 points per game.
“Everybody is feeling good about their game. We’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Grenadiers’ junior and former Jeffersonville High School standout Kegan Clark said. “Everybody is confident with their shot and our hard work is showing that.”
IU Southeast coach Wiley Brown credits his team’s overall shooting prowess for the high-scoring efforts. For the season, the Grenadiers are shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from 3-point range.
In last Tuesday’s 105-76 home victory over Berea, IU Southeast shot 50 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
“Our guys are really great shooters. Not only that, I want them to shoot,” said Brown, who is in his sixth year as the Grenadiers’ boss. “That doesn’t mean that when you are open, it’s a good shot. I want them to recognize if it’s a good shot or a bad shot. That means going straight up and down [the court] and taking a good look. That’s something we practice on every day. We practice on shooting a lot.”
The player who is leading the high-octane Grenadiers is junior Cameron Mitchell. The 6-foot-4 guard from Cincinnati is in his first season at IU Southeast after transferring during the offseason from Walsh University, an NCAA Division II school in North Canton, Ohio.
Mitchell leads the Grenadiers in scoring at 18.7 points per game, ranking second in the KIAC. During IU Southeast’s nine-game scoring surge, he is averaging 20.6 points per game as he tallied 24-plus points five times during that stretch.
Mitchell gives a few reasons why his team has been on its recent scoring tear.
“It’s been our unselfish play,” he said. “We’re playing fast like we’re supposed to. We’re just playing as a team. We do a lot of team-bonding things. We’re playing fast and that’s what we like.”
Brown says Mitchell has been a welcome addition to his squad, especially after the graduation of star guard Jazzmarr Ferguson.
“Cameron is a great player. But not only is he a great player, he’s a great person for me to coach,” Brown said. “He’s always listening and he’s always wanting to learn. He brings a great attitude to practice each and every day.
“He leads by example. He’s going out there and scoring a lot of points. But not only that, he’s playing defense and he’s rebounding.”
The KIAC has taken notice of Mitchell’s production this season as he has earned the conference’s player of the week honors four times this season. Mitchell said he has enjoyed his time at IU Southeast so far.
“I love it to death,” Mitchell said. “We have a great team and we have a brotherhood here. It’s a really good family. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Mitchell is not the only Grenadier contributing to his team’s offensive production. Sophomore guard Jake Simpson ranks second on the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game. Junior guard Kevin Mitchell is averaging 13.6 points a contest, including a 36-point outburst in IU Southeast’s recent victory over Berea.
Brown has liked what he has seen from Simpson, who is connecting on 54.3 percent of his shots and 48.6 percent of his 3-pointers.
“He’s been steady. He’s been one of my most consistent players,” Brown said. “His defense has picked up. When you leave him open, you can count it. He sees the floor. He’s playing tremendously intelligent basketball.”
IU Southeast looks primed to make a return to the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship tournament March 6-12 at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo. The Grenadiers have appeared in the tournament in each of the past five seasons, as they have won the KIAC Tournament five consecutive years.
Clark, who is averaging 9.9 points per game, says all the Grenadiers are currently worrying about is to win the conference tournament, which would give them the automatic berth in the national tournament.
“The conference tournament is our main objective right now,” said Clark, who missed the Berea game because of a high ankle sprain. “I feel like we have a good chance to make a real strong push in the [national] tournament.”
Brown says the Grenadiers have to play together as a team and execute their up-tempo style if they are to accomplish their goals.
“That’s what has got us here,” Brown said. “We’re not very big, but we gang-rebound. We’re not very quick, but we know some people are going to get beat off the dribble so we’ve got to help on defensive end. When we do rebound, we’re going to run. When we make baskets, we’re going to set up our press, whether it’s a man-to-man press or zone press.”
GRENADIERS’ UPCOMING SCHEDULE
Feb. 2 Alice Lloyd 4 p.m.
Feb. 5 at Cincinnati Christian 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 IU East 7 p.m.
Feb. 9 St. Louis College of Pharmacy 4 p.m.
Feb. 12 at Berea 7 p.m.
Feb. 16 at Asbury 4 p.m.
Feb. 19 Brescia 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 23-26 KIAC Tournament TBA