COLUMBIA — Thanks for the wake up call.
Those were the sentiments of the Columbia College men’s basketball team after an embarrassing loss at Williams Woods late last month. Since then, the Cougars have won eight of their past nine games. On Thursday at Southwell Complex, the Owls gave the Cougars another wake up call, but the Cougars came out on top 61-58.
“Last time we got frustrated,” senior Christian Lewis said. “We came in today focused.”
Lewis scored six points in a 10-0 Cougars run to start the game. In the first half, the Owls shot a dismal 2-for-11 behind the arc. A hard two-handed dunk highlighted Lewis' dominance in the first half and he went on to score a team-high 17. The Cougars led 33-24 at halftime.
“We came out real strong,” Cougars coach Bob Burchard said.
Coming off an emotional 55-53 loss to No. 6 McKendree on Tuesday and playing their fourth game in eight days, the Cougars (21-7) were given a scare in the second half against the Owls (8-17). A 23-4 run gave the Owls a late 55-52 lead. Owls senior guard Justin Cornelius hit a flurry of threes during that run, scoring 16 of his game-high 18 points in the second half.
“This time of the season, you can’t dwell,” Burchard said about his team's ability to come back after the McKendree loss.
One of the reasons the Owls were able to mount that comeback was because the Cougars lost sophomore Greg Stegeman, who received a gash above his eye.
“We lost our anchor defensively,” Burchard said of Stegeman’s absence.
After the Owls took the lead, the Cougars regained their composure, scoring seven straight points to regain the lead 59-56. With less than two minutes remaining, the Owls had two chances to take the lead, but turned the ball over both times. With nine seconds left, Jason Ellis nailed two free throws, to make it 61-58. A wild 3-pointer by the Owls’ Cornelius came up short to end the game.
“Throw the records out. In the end, you gotta make plays," Cougars senior guard Terrell Turner said. "Today they didn’t make them, and we did.”