Adams State head coach Louis Wilson certainly wasn’t expecting a career night out of Justin Kauffman in his first game of the season.
But he wasn’t necessarily surprised, either.
Kauffman went 8-of-12 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range, to score a game-high 27 points in his first game since hanging up his football pads for the season and led the Grizzlies to a 93-90 men’s basketball win over South Dakota School of Mines on Saturday at Goodell Gymnasium.
“I wasn't expecting that, but he’s really smart, he’s really tough and he’s obviously not the fleetest of foot but he just knows how to play the game,” Wilson said of Kauffman. “He competes. He has a very strong competitive will.”
Kauffman hit three triples in the first half to stake his team to a 48-40 lead at the break and even had a few nice drives to the basket despite his lack of foot speed.
“He plays football for us and had a 40-yard touchdown run his last game,” Wilson said of Kauffman, who led the Grizzlies football team in rushing. “I told him that 40-yard touchdown run was great coaching because it allowed them to milk the clock since it took him about six minutes to run that far.”
Mines head coach Jason Henry said the difference between Kauffman’s speed and the rest of his teammates had something to do with him getting some of his clean looks from the perimeter.
“Typically they’re dribble-drive guys and that’s how we were playing them,” Henry said. “We talked at halftime to make sure that (Kauffman) was not getting open looks but he still continued to do it."
Despite Kauffman’s big game, the Hardrockers were right there throughout even though their last lead came at 24-22 in the first half.
“I thought we competed really well and we executed pretty well down the stretch,” Henry said. “We just didn’t finish.”
Mines cut the lead to 91-90 on a layup by Andrew Rebol before Kauffman went 2-for-2 from the free-throw line to make it 93-90.
Mines’ Philip Schanilec, who had two big 3-pointers late in the game and had 13 of his 15 points in the second half, got a look at the buzzer from about 35 feet away, but his shot off the backboard was just a little too hard.
Despite getting the win, Wilson was less than pleased with the mental aspect of his team’s performance after a 12-day layoff.
“We’re just not a very good basketball team right now,” Wilson said. “We’re committing way too many mistakes of omission – mistakes where you don’t talk, where you don’t box out, where you don’t identify shooters in transition. Any time you go on the road and get a win in Division II that’s a good win, but we’re just not a very good team at this point and I hope we can get better. But you have to give (Mines) credit. They know what they want to do and they really make you work at it, but we just didn’t guard very well.”
Lance Kilburn led Mines (4-6 overall) with 18 points and Michael Dietz added 16 points and 11 rebounds. Trevor Zacher and Rebol added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Mines will host Augustana today at 3 p.m.
Adams State (3-0 overall) will play Colorado State-Pueblo in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference action on Dec. 6.