The first 50-point scorer of the college basketball season is a little-known reserve guard on a lightly regarded Southland Conference program that hasn't reached the NCAA tournament in more than a decade.
Meet Mike James, the Lamar University junior who erupted for 52 points in a 114-62 win over Division III Louisiana College on Tuesday night. James averaged a mere 10.7 points in his previous seven games this season, but the junior college transfer needed just 28 minutes to break the school record for points in a game on Tuesday, eclipsing guard Mike Olliver's 50-point outburst against Portland State on Jan. 12, 1980.
"Breaking a record is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so that's what I'm going to remember," James said by phone Wednesday morning. "Because I broke a record, that means everybody is going to remember it when I come back here after I'm done playing."
According to ESPN's research department, James' 52 points were the most scored by a bench player since Texas-San Antonio's Roderic Hall also put up 52 in 1997. The closest any player had come to the 50-point plateau this season was St. Bonaventure forward Andrew Nicholson, who scored 44 points in a quadruple-overtime victory over Ohio last month.
The most points James had ever scored at any level was 44 in a junior college game last season, but he had 37 by halftime on Tuesday night. He sank 18 of 35 shots in the game and hit 11 of 21 3-pointers, eclipsing the school record for points on an emphatic two-handed dunk with 37 seconds remaining in the game.
James said Lamar coach Steve Roccaforte told him in the huddle during a second-half TV timeout that he was approaching both the school record for 3-pointers and for points in a game. Roccaforte then asked James what plays he wanted to run and told the rest of the team to feed him whenever possible.
"We just ran some plays to get me open and get me shots," James said. "Once I got pretty hot, I felt like if I got a little bit of space it would go in."
Even though James is now Lamar's leading scorer at 15.9 points per game, he insists he's content to continue coming off the bench.
"I think coming off the bench is what my team needs me to do," James said. "We have two veteran guards that start in Anthony Miles and Kendrick Harris. They start off the game well. I just watch what we do when I'm sitting on the bench and when I come in, I try to do what we were missing."
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