Storm tame Grinnell’s wild-style of basketball

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by Brock Borgeson, Sports Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa – Grinnell came into the game leading Division III in three-point field goals attempted with 249. They have their own Wikipedia entry to describe their run-and-gun playing style and had a player scored 138 points three years ago.

The Simpson men’s basketball team didn’t let Grinnell’s offense be the storyline on Tuesday night though as the Storm kept Grinnell 25 points below their season-average in a 103-80 win at Cowles Fieldhouse. 

Head coach Brad Bjorkgren didn’t get overwhelmed by the obtuse offense the Pioneers run, and simplicity proved to be the best approach.

“I don’t know if you can practice against that,” Bjorkgren said. “We tried and only prepared one night for it because I don’t want to go through a whole week preparing for that.” 

Grinnell’s (3-2) approach is to attempt as many three-pointers as possible while filtering shots through a system of preferred shooters.

If a designated player doesn’t have so many points through a certain point in the game, the game-plan switches to another player.

The Storm (2-2) thwarted that plan masterfully, keeping Grinnell to 33.3 percent from the floor and 16 of 49 (32.7 percent) from three.

Grinnell’s leading scorer, Kyle Parker, was kept to six points, being hampered by injury, while Danny Thomas led the Pioneers with a mere 13 points. 

Simpson didn’t buy into the three-happy style and looked to go inside for their buckets and score in transition.

“We made all the adjustments and they didn’t adjust to us at all,” Bjorkgren said. “Offensively we weren’t going to try to shoot any threes but had to go inside-out for any threes.”

After going ahead 6-4 on a Sam Amsbaugh layup early in the game, Simpson never trailed or even allowed the Pioneers to tie it up.

The key run for Simpson came at the 8:39 mark in the first half when Simpson took a 33-30 lead and went on a 27-7 run to close the half. 

That about sealed it, forcing Grinnell to go into a zone defense, an uncomfortable and atypical alignment for them. 

“The number of possessions in the first couple of games is just crazy, but when our guys really started attacking and finishing I felt they had a hard time.” 

The Storm lead by as many as 30 two different times in the second half, not letting Grinnell get closer than 21. 

A rotational, tenacious defense on the outside flustered Grinnell who shuffled in 20 players into the game.

The Storm were led by Amsbaugh who notched a double-double with a 23 point and 11-rebound night, benefiting from fastbreak layups. 

Dillon Gretzky always brings his “A-game” against Grinnell and did so again, scoring 20 points on 7 of 13 shooting.

Austin Turner nearly turned a double-double with a 14 point and nine assist night.

Simpson gets back on the court on Friday when they play Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. at 2 p.m.

They’ll detox from the Grinnell style of basketball with a 9 a.m. practice tomorrow morning.