COLUMBIA — A team with nothing to lose can be dangerous.
The Columbia College men’s basketball witnessed that firsthand Thursday night at Southwell Complex, barely sneaking by the Williams Baptist Eagles 89-88.
The Eagles came into the game with a record of 7-21, and their thinking was simple: win or their season was over. On the other side, the Cougars (24-7) had everything to lose.
With a win, the Cougars would further make their case for an at-large bid to the NAIA national tournament. However, a loss to the No. 7 seed in the American Midwest Conference tournament might have ended the Cougars season.
“Isn’t this sport amazing?” coach Bob Burchard asked rhetorically. “Their team was really interested in giving a good effort.”
Even after easily handling the Eagles twice earlier this season, the Cougars knew this win would not be given to them.
“They were incredibly well prepared tonight,” Burchard said. “We were a step slow tonight (on defense).”
Using a full-court press most of the game, the Eagles forced an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers by the Cougars. The game featured 20 lead changes and was not decided until a free throw by Christian Lewis with 8 seconds remaining.
A long 2-point field goal missed for the Eagles as time expired. Senior Brett Hoskins scored 22 points for the Cougars. Senior Jason Ellis added 17, and Taylor Evans scored 18.
Next up for the Cougars is the Springfield-Illinois Prarie Stars at 4 p.m. Saturday at Southwell Complex in the semifinals of the AMC tournament.