Dennis Pilcher affectionately calls his Iowa Central men's basketball team ''a bunch of smurfs.''
The veteran coach's diminutive men in blue put on quite a show here Saturday.
Sophomore Dylan Travis scored a career-high 36 points and the Tritons' five-guard lineup performed with potent accuracy in a 94-79 dissection of Kirkwood on 'Jam the Gym' day inside Hodges Fieldhouse.
Iowa Central (15-10 overall, 4-4 in the ICCAC) entertained the large crowd with a barrage of three-point baskets, swishing 13 shots from behind the arc in 20 tries. Pilcher's squad shot 57 percent (30 of 53) for the game in exacting revenge on the Eagles (14-7, 5-3) after a double-digit loss in Cedar Rapids earlier this season.
''I'm really proud of the fact that our guys are willing to learn and listen, and because of that, they're getting better each time out,'' Pilcher said. ''We obviously aren't the biggest team out there (no Triton starter in Pilcher's lineup yesterday was taller than 6-foot-3), but we're executing well and sharing the basketball. Because of that, we forced Kirkwood to adjust to our rotation - not the other way around.''
Travis had 29 or more points for the third time in Iowa Central's last five contests, but Saturday was his best effort yet. The Omaha native tallied 17 points in the first 13 minutes and only missed one field goal attempt in 12 total tries as the Tritons set a new program record for points in a single game against the Eagles.
IOWA CENTRAL 94, KIRKWOOD 79
Iowa Central - Dylan Travis 11-12 9-12 36, Justin Lawler 6-11 2-2 17, Jesse Jones 3-8 7-13 14, Ky Kramer 4-9 0-0 11, Javonte Young 3-10 3-4 9, Malik Brooks 2-2 0-0 5, Winston Yergler 1-1 0-0 2, Jasmin Biberovikj 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 30-53 21-31 94.
Kirkwood - Joseph Tagarelli 9-13 0-0 18, Taylor Olson 5-10 3-4 17, JC Fuller 5-11 0-0 12, Ajay Lawton 3-9 0-0 8, Joseph Weeks 2-4 0-0 4, Matthew Lassen 2-3 0-0 5, Austin Swank 2-4 0-0 5, Myzeah Batie-Gaddy 2-5 0-1 5, Jalen Currie 2-3 1-2 5, Chris Ward 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 32-63 4-7 79.
Halftime score: Iowa Central led, 44-43. Three-point goals: Iowa Central 13-20 (Travis 5-6, Lawler 3-4, Kramer 3-4, Jones 1-3, Brooks 1-1, Young 0-2); Kirkwood 11-29 (Olson 4-7, Fuller 2-6, Lawton 2-8, Lassen 1-2, Swank 1-2, Batie-Gaddy 1-3, Currie 0-1). Turnovers: Iowa Central 9, Kirkwood 13. Total fouls: Iowa Central 14, Kirkwood 24. Technical fouls: Lawler, Fuller.
Backcourt mates Justin Lawler (17 points), Jesse Jones (14) and Ky Kramer (11) also reached double figures for the Tritons, who pulled away down the stretch with a 15-2 scoring burst.
''We had built a comfortable lead (Iowa Central was up 11 with nine minutes remaining), but they answered and we had to take a timeout (ahead by three two minutes later). We needed to just kind of calm down and reset. The way our guys responded out of that timeout was the difference in the ballgame.
''Dylan was obviously outstanding. It wasn't just the points, either - he had 11 rebounds and played pretty solid defense in the second half especially. I thought Justin looked very solid in his first start and Ky had a good overall floor game. You don't score over 90 points and beat a ballclub like Kirkwood by 15 without a tremendous team effort.''
There were five ties and 26 lead changes in the first half alone before Lawler hit an off-balance triple at the buzzer to put Iowa Central up by one point at the break. The Tritons finally started to separate themselves from the Eagles midway through the second half, and a steal and layup by Travis secured the home team's first double-digit advantage.
Kirkwood trimmed a 73-62 deficit to 74-71, but Jones improvised out of a timeout and drained a three-pointer, Travis sank another trey, and Iowa Central never looked back in winning for the sixth time in their last seven contests.
''We were patient on offense and giving up good shots for better ones,'' Pilcher said. ''Of course it helps to have (the field goal percentage) we did, but a lot of that had to do with the way we worked the ball around.''
The Tritons are now off until Saturday, when they host 18th-ranked Iowa Lakes (14-6, 5-2).