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138 points in a game: Where's the embarrassment?

By Nicolaus Mills, Special to CNN
updated 8:05 AM EST, Tue November 27, 2012
Grinnell's Jack Taylor scored 138 points in a game against an overwhelmed opponent.
Grinnell's Jack Taylor scored 138 points in a game against an overwhelmed opponent.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Grinnell College player broke the record for most points in a game, with 138
  • Nicolaus Mills: The achievement came against a college team with far fewer resources
  • Other players have had outsized scoring performances, he says, but those were different
  • Mills: Players should have known better than to embarrass their opponents in this way

Editor's note: Nicolaus Mills is professor of American Studies at Sarah Lawrence College and author of "Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America's Coming of Age as a Superpower."

(CNN) -- College basketball has a new record holder for most points in a game. Last week, Jack Taylor, a 5-foot, 10-inch guard at Iowa's Grinnell College, scored 138 points to lead Grinnell to a 179-104 blowout win over Faith Baptist Bible College, a nearby Iowa college. In setting his scoring record, Taylor made 52 of 108 shots from the field, including 27 of 71 three-point attempts and shot 7 for 10 from the foul line.

Taylor's coach and teammates were happy to see him go all out. In the 36 minutes he played, Taylor did not have a single assist. Virtually every time he got the ball, he shot it.

Nicolaus Mills
Nicolaus Mills

Taylor is not the first basketball player to go on such an outsized scoring spree. On February 2, 1954, Bevo Francis, playing for tiny Rio Grande College in Ohio, scored 113 points against Hillsdale College of Michigan. Francis made 38 of 70 shots and hit on 37 free throws in a game that ended with a 134-91 Rio Grande victory.

Eleven days after Francis set his record, Frank Selvy of Furman College in South Carolina poured in 100 points in a 149-95 victory over Newberry College. No Division 1 player has ever done as well against a four-year college. Selvy, who finished his senior year with a 41.7 scoring average, had a spectacular shooting night, hitting 41 of 66 field goal attempts and 18 of 22 free throws.

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In the National Basketball Association, the scoring record belongs to the Philadelphia Warriors' Wilt Chamberlain.

Fifty years ago, Chamberlain put up 100 points in a March 2, 1962, game against the New York Knicks, who were missing their starting center. Chamberlain, who at 7-foot-1 towered over his opponents, was never much of an outside shooter, but his "Dipper Dunk" was all he needed. He was unstoppable anywhere near the basket.

Taylor's scoring feat is, nonetheless, different from that of the others.

They were playing in games in which their opponent was outclassed but still in their league. That was not the case in the Grinnell game.

Grinnell is, to be sure, a small college, but Grinnell is far from any small college. Like a series of elite Midwestern schools -- Kenyon, Oberlin, Carleton, Macalester -- Grinnell has an enormous endowment, a superb faculty and a national reputation.

Hoops record holder speaks out
138 points: 'I was just in the zone'

Faith Baptist Bible College's situation is very different. In contrast to Grinnell, which lists its undergraduate enrollment at 1,693, Faith Baptist Bible has just 302 undergraduates, and when it comes to endowment and facilities, the gap between the two colleges is even greater.

Grinnell has an endowment of more than $1.5 billion and charges $41,004 in tuition and fees. All that Faith Baptist Bible College charges $14,478 in tuition and fees, and its endowment is listed in the U.S. News Best College report as N/A (not available).

Jack Taylor's scoring binge came against a college that doesn't come close to having his college's resources. What the basketball players at Faith Baptist Bible College must be feeling about losing by 75 points doesn't seem to have entered anyone's head at Grinnell or in the media, which couldn't get enough of Taylor in the days following his scoring feat. Reporters barely mentioned the 70 points that Faith sophomore David Larson totaled in a losing cause.

I grew up in the Middle West playing basketball at a prep school that often competed against tiny rural high schools to get ready for our games in an interstate league. When it came to running up the score, there was a code our coaches enforced.

With a big lead, we slowed the game down. We stopped taking long shots that would get our supporters cheering, and with the game in hand, we brought in the second team, and after them, anyone still on the bench.

When we left the gym, we wanted the other team to feel good about having played us. We didn't want their players hanging their heads in embarrassment, especially if we had a game scheduled with them for the following year.

We knew these unspoken rules by 16. How could college players not know as much as we did as teenagers? Maybe it's the times. But I wish that the Grinnell players had had my old coach, who doubled as my math teacher. Coach would have made their ears burn for showing up an opponent as they did.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Nicolaus Mills.

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