COLUMBIA — The Columbia College men’s basketball team needed to change something, so coach Bob Burchard decided to shake things up a bit.
In an effort to build better team chemistry after a frustrating loss last month, Burchard came up with a strategy not many coaches would put into play. When Burchard substitutes in players, he doesn’t bring in one or two new bodies. He brings in a fresh five.
“It has engaged everybody,” Burchard said, “Were trying to carry the load with the whole group.”
The strategy has allowed the Cougars to reel off three straight wins, the most recent a 73-49 non-conference win over Missouri Valley on Monday night at Southwell Complex. The Cougars began with a 16-0 run, with senior Terrell Turner scoring the first eight points. After that , Burchard decided to implement his strategy, bringing in five players off the bench.
“We wanted to establish a rhythm,” Turner said.
Turner said his coach’s strategy encourages a friendly competition within the team during games. Each group of five competes against the other, hoping to outdo the other.
“It has the tendency to get our energy level and work ethic up,” Burchard said.
The strategy seems to have affected the way the team shares the ball. Against the Vikings, the Cougars had 20 assists. Only three players scored double figures, with Christian Lewis leading the Cougars with 11 points. Turner and Miroslav Lukic added 10 apiece.
While the Cougars are heading back into the meat of their conference schedule, Burchard said he is "fully committed" to keeping his new strategy intact.
With an overall record of 16-6 and 4-3 in American Midwest Conference play, the Cougars have a slim chance of getting back into the conference race. McKendree University is 7-0. Sitting just ahead of the Cougars in the conference race is Illinois-Springfield at 5-2. That doesn’t mean the Cougars are going to stop trying during the second half of conference play.
“We still think we can catch them,” Turner said.
Ultimately, the Cougars are probably playing for the second seed of the AMC Tournament. Getting the second seed would give the Cougars home-court advantage and possibly a championship match-up against McKendree. Since the loss in January, the Cougars appear to have their confidence back.
“We’re a different team now,” Burchard said.