COLUMBIA — The Columbia College men’s basketball team isn't accustomed to winning close games.
Of its six losses, five have been by less than five points . On Coaches vs. Cancer Day on Saturday afternoon at home against Park University, the Cougars changed their bad fortunes, beating the Pirates 63-62.
“It was nice to win one that was in the balance,” Columbia College coach Bob Burchard said.
The Cougars (18-6) got off to a shaky start, trailing 20-15 just five minutes into the game. When Burchard put in his “white team”, the Cougars got back on track.
Burchard refers to his first unit as the “blue team” and second as his “white team." He continues to sub five players at a time. The strategy seems to pay off for the Cougars, who have gone a five-game winning streak since the system was put into place.
“It helps keep our energy level high, running fresh legs in and out,” said freshman guard Taylor Evans, who finished with 10 points.
The game was back and forth much of the way, with the Cougars leading 39-32 at halftime. In the second half, the Cougars were unable to put away the Pirates (14-10), despite leading 52-42 at one point.
One of the main reasons the Cougars were unable to run away with the game was because of the Pirates leading scorer Jon Meriweather. The 6-foot-8 center scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half.
“He’s tough to defend. We’ve tried almost everything on him,” Burchard said. “We have to do a better job on the other guys.”
Cougars senior forward Christian Lewis had the task of defending Meriweather most of the game. However, a controversial blocking foul on Lewis with two minutes remaining gave him his fifth foul and made the Cougars look for others to defend Meriweather.
After the Cougars lead was cut to 61-59 with five seconds left, senior Jason Ellis hit two free throws to seal the game. A three-pointer made it 63-62.
The Cougars get a bit of a break before traveling to Missouri Baptist on Thursday .