David Larson Scores the Quietest 70 Points in Basketball History

Alternate Headline: “Statistics Fans Cheer Grinnell-Faith Box Score”
Alternate Alternate Headline: “Grinnell and Faith Team Up To Let One Player Score Absurd Amount of Points”
Alternate Cubed Headline: “Big Ten Scout Leaves D3 Game After 2 Minutes, 15 Possessions”

In college basketball, there are a lot of David vs. Goliath matchups. Especially in D3. As you may know by now, Tuesday night was a record-breaking night in D3  ball as Grinnell’s Jack Taylor scored 137 points to establish a new NCAA single-game record.

Here’s how I imagine it happened: Grinnell (3-0 this season and coming off of a year in which it led all of college hoops in team scoring) hosted a Faith Baptist Bible college team that was a joke. Faith is 0-8 this season including exhibition games that aren’t typically kept as part of the record. Faith sucks. Faith is clearly in over its head against literally anyone, a lot like the Trinidad and Tobago ice hockey team in D2: The Mighty Ducks. They have no business being out there competing. Faith Baptist Bible just sounds made up. It sounds like less of an institution of higher learning and more the result of a mad lib that looks like: [religious word] [different religious word] [different religious word].

Knowing that the competition was weak, Grinnell decided to take a stab at the all-time scoring record and see how it goes. Taylor just kept shooting and shooting. From the highlights I’ve seen, he just dribbled the ball up and took the first three-pointer he could find. At the end of the game, he had tallied 138 points, which is insane. Completely unreal in the most literal sense of the word imaginable.

I’m pretty sure this is David Larson. You try finding an image of him.

That 138 number has shown up in a lot of places today. The number I didn’t see until I hunted down the box score was 70. That’s how many points Faith’s leading scorer David Larson had. Better yet, he accomplished his 70 points on only 44 shots, 64 fewer than the 108 headliner Jack Taylor attempted. And this isn’t some sample size thing where we take a player with a low usage rate and project his percentages on heavier usage to claim he’d be inhuman. Forty-four shots is a hell of a sample size. And David Larson made 34 of them for an outstanding 77%.

By comparison, Jack Taylor made less than 48% of his 108 shots. Even when you account for the three-pointers Taylor took (lower % shots, but more value) and compare points per shot, Larson still bests Taylor 1.61 to 1.28. That’s a huge difference.

I’m not going to claim that I saw the game or know exactly what happened, but it seems to me that the better team did what we would all do in a video game and let the user-cereated player shoot threes five seconds into every possession while the inferior team got a really celebratory performance out of its best player that went unnoticed. It’s undeniable that the opposing team’s stunt improved his chances of scoring and this game is a total outlier that should be thrown out of every record book ever, but David Larson’s 70-point game was also a team record, beating the previous mark by 23.

I’m just saying, it’s extraordinarily rare to see a player score 138 points in a basketball game. It’s even rarer that the 138-point scorer is the second-best player in the game.

Early mockup of the Air Larson™

Here are some other bizarre stats from the outlying game:

  • Jack Taylor took 108 shots, the other 19 players who logged minutes for Grinnell combined for 28 shots.
  • Assuming that each possession ends in either a shot attempt or a turnover and the only way to get more than one shot attempt in the same possession is to get an offensive rebound, we get a formula that looks like Possessions = (shots + turnovers) – offensive rebounds. By that formula, we had 235 total possessions in 40 minutes. In other words, an entire game consisting of possessions that were 10.2 seconds long.
  • Jack Taylor took 108 shots and finished the game with 0 assists, setting a new standard for what I’ll call the “Hansbrough Zone”
  • There were 104 rebounds in this game and only Faith’s Tyler Betz had a double-digit board total.
  • Betz (15) and teammate Eric Young (16) combined for 31 turnovers, which has to be a two-player record.
  • Taylor played 36 minutes for Grinnell. No other Fox Squirrel (actual mascot) played more than 15 minutes.
  • Faith (61%) outshot Grinnell (50%) by 11 percent and still managed to lose by 75 points. That’s the hallmark of  truly horrendous team.

Judging only by the box score, I’d tend to think the coaches met before the game and said “Look, this isn’t going to be close. You let my guy shoot wide-open threes and we’ll let your guy shoot wide-open twos. We’ll both make the news.” And they did.

I linked to the box score earlier, but you really need to see it. Just try to imagine how this thing actually happened. Here it is: