COLUMBIA — With time winding down in overtime of Columbia College’s first meeting with Missouri Baptist this season, Missouri Baptist’s Brandon Bishop rose up and extended the game another five minutes with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Although Bob Burchard’s Columbia College team won that contest 69-62 in the second overtime, the Cougars squandered a 16-point halftime lead, and Burchard knows there’s only one way to prepare for the upcoming game against the 5-18 Spartans Thursday night.
“We’re spending a lot of time on defensive fundamentals right now, which is a little bit different,” Burchard said. “We’re still trying to tell these guys, if we’re going to get to the level we’re capable of getting to, these are the things we’ve got to get better at, and that starts defensively.”
The Cougars should have their work cut out for them.
Bishop and teammate Bret Wilson form a two-headed scoring monster for the Spartans, and Burchard knows when they both get going, it’s a nightmare for defenses no matter what coaches throw at them defensively. Although they combined to go just 10-37 from the field in their first matchup with the Cougars, the two still poured in 37 points, just enough to make the Cougar defense literally work overtime.
“The majority of their scoring comes from those two guys,” Burchard said. “They’re two very different defensive challenges, though. Wilson just shoots the ball from the volleyball lines out there, he’s got really deep range and just lets it fly. Then there’s Bishop, who’s really tough off the dribble, so he’s drawing people to him, and you’ve got to get him stopped, but then you’ve got to stay close to Wilson out there too, so that’s critical.”
Between the two, Bishop and Wilson have just six single-digit scoring performances this season, and Wilson averages just under 4 3-pointers a game, third-highest in the NAIA. Together, the two players average just over 34 points per game, and Columbia College senior guard Trae Hall knows he’ll see plenty of both players Thursday night.
When asked how to slow the pair’s attack, however, it’s apparent Burchard’s philosophy is getting through to at least his more experienced players.
“If we do what we need to do defensively, we don’t have to worry about what they do,” Hall said. “Coach has been telling us our defensive intensity has been lacking, and that’s really been the difference in our last two wins as opposed to our three losses, our defensive focus.”
The Cougars’ first four losses of the season came at home, but in the two weeks since they last took their home floor, they have dropped two more games and now sit at 18-6, with a 6-2 record in the American Midwest Conference. Although coming home after a four-game road trip would give most teams a sense of relief, Burchard isn’t sure how his team will respond to its return home.
“We like playing here,” Burchard said. “Who knows, though, we might just take a bus ride before the game. The biggest thing for us is just to focus on playing well. We’ve had a tough time playing at a high level consistently, and that’s really a goal of ours not only from game to game, but also within the game.”
Thursday’s game will tip-off at 7 p.m. in the arena of the Southwell Complex.