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Redlands returns to old habits

Bulldogs beat Grinnell, 108-100, using the system of their former coach, now a Pioneers assistant.

January 07, 2008|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

Turns out, you can beat the system.

That's what Redlands did in a topsy-turvy 108-100 victory Sunday over Grinnell, the Iowa school that pioneered the high-scoring offensive "system" Redlands abandoned after former coach Gary Smith retired last season.

With Smith on the visiting bench at Currier Gym as a volunteer assistant for Grinnell -- returning for the first time to the court that had been named in his honor -- the Redlands players proved they learned their lessons well, beating Grinnell at its own triple-digit game.

"It was surreal to walk in here," said Smith, who seemed emotional at times as he was greeted by friends as well as after the game, when he hugged his former players.

Between them, Grinnell and Redlands have won the Division III scoring title every season since 1994, but now Redlands has left Grinnell to carry the mantle, playing a more traditional style.

It was a game of wild swings, with Redlands jumping to an 8-0 lead, Grinnell leading by as many as 11 points in the first half and Redlands by as many as 13 points in the second.

Yet, the Bulldogs won, even though Grinnell made an astonishing 21 of 52 three-pointers and Redlands made only one.

Redlands did it with an opportunistic strategy that took advantage of the pell-mell pace for easy baskets when they were there, yet played under control enough to limit its turnovers to 19.

The Redlands players lived in the paint, scoring 82 points on layups and near-layups, and converted 21 of 30 free throws.

In the second half, Redlands was at its best, making 22 of 29 shots.

"They did a nice job making great decisions," Smith said of his former players, and praised the game plan of his successor, Jim Ducey, and his former assistant, Donald Brady.

Ducey said Brady and the players, who had played and practiced against the up-tempo system themselves, chose a pace somewhere between what they played last season -- when they led Division III in scoring with a 117.3-point average -- and the one they employ now.

"I said, 'This is one extreme, this is the other extreme, and this is the middle,' " Ducey said.

Redlands caught a break because of an injury to Grinnell's key player, guard David Arseneault, the son of Coach David Arseneault.

The junior guard, who set an NCAA record with 34 assists last month, sprained his right ankle in the first half and played only 10 minutes.

John Grotberg led the way for the Pioneers (8-2) with 30 points, making eight of 20 three-pointers a day after scoring 32 points in a 137-84 victory over Caltech.

Redlands (5-6) was led by Matt Loretz, who as a forward wasn't a key figure in the old system but had a 25-point, 10-rebound game Sunday.

"I always wanted to play against our old system, and it was neat to play our coach on 'his' court," Loretz said after Redlands broke the 100-point barrier for the first time this season. "It really was a unique experience."

robyn.norwood@latimes.com

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