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Thus far, the men's college basketball seasons for Indiana Tech and Saint Francis have been perfect. However, as of tonight at 8 p.m. at the Warriors' Schaefer Center, something will have to give, as the two teams face each other for the first of two times this season.
“Playing Indiana Tech is a good team to go into (Crossroads League play) and know where you are before the conference,” Cougar coach Chad LaCross said.
The 25th-ranked Warriors (5-0) relied heavily upon one of the nation's best post attacks a year ago, but for tonight, third-year Indiana Tech coach Al Grushkin has front court play on his mind, but it's not his own.
Saint Francis junior center Scott Kohne has carried the strong momentum he gained through last season into this year and through three games is averaging nearly 20 points and over 10 rebounds per outing.
“Whatever other teams are doing against him,” Grushkin explained, “it's not working.”
The 6-foot-7 Bishop Dwenger graduate has not only been effective around the rim, but all over the place, and that is what has Grushkin concerned.
“I really liked him last year,” Grushkin said. “You can tell that he's really spent some time on his game. His strength is his versatility. He can shoot well, he can play with his back to the basket, and he can drive the ball from the high post.”
Though before you start feeling too sorry for Grushkin, keep in mind that he has a bonafide NAIA All-American candidate of his own.
Senior forward Melvin Brooks has exploded onto the scene this season and so far has put up fantasy-like numbers.
The 6-foot-5 Brooks has averaged over 19 points per game and is pulling down over 11 boards each game, and is giving the now smaller version of the Warriors at least some post presence.
“Brooks can play inside and out,” LaCross said. “He doesn't take a lot of three-point shots, but he's long and can get to the basket and rebounds at both ends. If he is hitting that step-back 17 to 18-fotter, then it's going to be his night.”
Saint Francis has won each of its three games so far and there is a mutual admiration between the two highly-successful programs (both qualified for the NAIA Division II National Tournament last spring) that carries off of the floor.
“It's a fun rivalry,” Grushkin said. “I like Chad, he does a nice job and it was good to see both of us make the tournament last year.”
Brooks is getting assistance this year from guards Jordan Hickman (11.6 points, four assists per game), Jeff Hoskins (10.2 points, 3.8 assists per game), and Antonio Cannon (9.2 points per game), as the Warriors have evolved into a perimeter-oriented group.
LaCross expressed that the success of Kohne has helped his perimeter players, and vice versa.
“Ethan Hussey has really shot the ball well so far,” LaCross said. “Scott is passing out of double teams and finding guys on the perimeter pretty well.”
The senior guard has connected on 50 percent of his three-point shots and is averaging over 10 points, five rebounds and a team-high 3.3 assists per game.
“We're going to have to do what we normally do,” Grushkin said. “We'll have to fight harder and be quicker. We can't give them our body (in the post), we have to be quick and move.”