BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – Coaches will often say fundamentals will win games. For the Cougars of Indiana University Kokomo, they learned that lesson the hard way in a 59-47 loss to Judson University of Elgin, Ill. In the 12-point loss to a team the Cougars defeated 70-63 on Oct. 27, IU Kokomo missed a staggering 16 free throws while Judson connected on 16 in the game played on Dec. 29
“I would like to say it is a practice thing, but right now we have got ourselves in a mental thing when we get to the line,” said Kokomo head coach Jace Thompson. “I am not sure we know if we are going to make it or not, and we are trying to snap them out of it. You see it at all levels, and unfortunately, it has now affected our whole team – they are all missing free throws. Free throws are mental, and we will get better at it.”
Shooting woes plagued the Cougars all night, not just at the charity stripe but in the field. While hitting a chilling 10 of 26 free throw attempts (.385), the Cougars could not find a groove at any spot on the home floor as they connected on 16 of 50 field goals (.320) and 5 of 19 3-pointers (.263).
The Cougars were in the game thanks to equally poor shooting in the field by Judson. At the 10:45 mark, Western graduate John Capps forced a turnover and fed Jared Lawrence on a fast break layup to give Kokomo its first lead of the game at 11-9. But a 3-pointer by Skylar Sandry returned the lead to the Eagles and started a 17-0 run and an eventual 15 point halftime lead (30-15.)
The Cougars battled in the second half, cutting the lead to nine on several early possessions. Lewis Cass graduate Jacob Faust’s bucket at the 6:46 mark cut the lead to seven. Baskets by Nathaniel Carroll and Spencer Krhin kept the Cougars in the game, but they simply dug themselves in a hole too to early and couldn’t overcome poor free throw shooting (8 of 18 in the second half). While the Cougars could not buy a freebie, the visiting Eagles connected on 16 of 17 attempts.
“Defensively, we played much better; this was a solid defensive performance,” said Thompson, who noted the Cougars won the turnover battle 19-13. “A missed shot here and there in the first half got us off to a bad start and it was tough to shake off.”
The Cougars continue to battle health issues as Carroll, Jacob Faust and Joby Renbarger have all been affected by illness over the holiday break.
For the second consecutive game, Krhin paced the Cougars with 15 points off the bench. Jared Lawrence added eight points and five rebounds and Carroll had seven points and five rebounds for the Cougars. Bob McCarthy led the Judson Eagles (3-11) with 15 points and five assists while Frankie Cleope added 14 points.
The Cougars (5-10) return to action on January 5, when they host NCAA Division II Salem International University (7-7) from Salem, W.V. Game time is set for 3 p.m. at the Kokomo High School Gym.