November 21, 2011
Instead of commemorating his historic 89-point scoring barrage by heading to dinner with his family or making a triumphant entrance at a campus party, Grinnell College's Griffin Lentsch admits his celebration was more muted.
"I came back home, I laid down on my bed, and I was like, 'There's no way I'm getting out of bed tonight,'" Lentsch said Monday. "I was too exhausted."
Lentsch earned that extra rest after Saturday's 145-97 victory at Principia College with a performance unlikely to be matched by any player at any level of college basketball this season.
Whereas Division III Grinnell typically has 12 to 15 players log roughly 10 to 15 minutes a game to keep them fresh enough to thrive in the team's zany, frenetic, up-tempo system, Lentsch played a grueling 36 minutes on Saturday. He sank 27 of 55 shots, buried 15 3-pointers and made 20 of 22 free throws, eclipsing his previous career high of 36 points by halftime.
Lentsch's 89 points were enough to shatter the Division III scoring record of 77 points set by ex-Grinnell star Jeff Clement in 1998. The 6-foot-4 guard also tallied the third-most points scored at any level of college basketball, trailing only the 113 scored by Clarence "Bevo" Francis of Rio Grande in 1954 and the 100 posted that same year by Frank Selvy of Furman.
"It's a rare thing when you get in that kind of zone, but when it happens, it's so much fun," Lentsch said. "Your mind is in a zone and you don't even realize what's happening until after. I just tried to keep my mind off how many points I had and to focus on getting open and hitting my shots when I was open."
The idea to play Lentsch 30-plus minutes on Saturday was an early season experiment proposed by the Grinnell coaches to gauge what the Minnesota native was capable of. Lentsch averaged a team-high 18.3 points a game last season as a sophomore, but the coaches limited him to 16.2 minutes per game because they feared he'd expend too much energy running the team's three-point happy transition offense and pressing defense.
It initially appeared Grinnell's experiment wouldn't amount to much because Lentsch's outside shooting was a bit off to start on Saturday, but he regained his rhythm midway through the first half.
Although Principia switched between a two-three zone, a box-and-1 and a swarming man-to-man, none of the defenses successfully cooled Lentsch's torrid shooting. With his teammates setting screens for him and setting him up with catch-and-shoot opportunities, he scored with frightening speed, sinking the record-setting bucket from the elbow over a triple-team late in the second half.
It would be easy to assume Grinnell would continue to play Lentsch extended minutes in hopes of him duplicating performances like this, but the humble junior says that almost certainly won't happen. Saturday night's game took so much out of him that his calves were cramping afterward and he still could barely get out of bed Sunday morning.
"I don't think I can do this every night and I don't think that would be best for our team," Lentsch said. "I think what's best for our team is to keep getting everyone involved and to wear down the other team. That way toward the end of the season when the games start to really matter, we have fresh legs and we're able to go all out."
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