COLUMBIA — For 40 minutes, senior forward Rachel Oswald will fight for rebounds, explode to the basket, swat shots and run the court like she was doing suicides.
After all that, she'll head over to the front row of the Southwell Arena, greet her fans and pick up the baby that wears her jersey number.
"It's my best friend from first grade's baby. She just had it this summer," Oswald said with a smile.
This is her routine every game for the Columbia College women's basketball team — shoot, score, rebound, kiss the baby. Little did she know she would do a little more scoring and rebounding than usual Wednesday night. A lot more.
Oswald scored 29 points, pushing her past the career 1,500 point-mark, and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Cougars' 96-60 victory over Park University in the American Midwest Conference tournament quarterfinals.
"I didn't know I was going to have this good of a game," she said. "I don't know. I just wanted to go out and have a good game and step up for the team. We really didn't want to just win 60-40 like we did last time. We wanted to make a big statement in the first conference tournament game."
Cougars coach Mike Davis always seems to wear a smile when Oswald, a three-time AMC Player of the Week this season, is playing well.
"She just has a great passion for the game, and I think she takes a lot of ownership in this team," he said. "She really brought the energy to the team tonight. It was really a great way to start the postseason."
Senior guard Whitney Widaman said Oswald makes it easy for her teammates.
"She's a hustler," Widaman said of Oswald. "The guards see her really well when she flashes, and she just gets to the basket."
Oswald just smiles.
"I just feed off everyone else," she said.
Oswald admits she gets a big boost from her fans, too, especially the ones sitting in the front row.
"The crowd just gets me going. I have high school friends here, college friends, friends from MU. You just want to do well in front of all of them," Oswald said.
Oswald will get another chance to put on a show at 7 p.m. Friday at Southwell Arena against Williams Baptist, which upset No. 12-ranked McKendree 69-67 Wednesday. Oswald had 19 points and eight rebounds when the Cougars played Williams Baptist last month.
However, Oswald says she is just looking forward to a rematch with top-seed William Woods, which beat the Cougars 69-66 on Saturday to grab a share of the regular season conference title and take away the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. William Woods beat Stephens 64-52 in its quarterfinal game Wednesday night.
"We're just looking to Monday (the championship game)," Oswald said. "We have the bull's-eye on our back. Everyone considers us the team to beat. William Woods is the No. 1 seed and everything, but everyone considers us the team to beat."
Widaman, who had 23 points and six assists Wednesday against Park, also had five steals to set the school record for career steals at 307. Widman set the Cougars' season steal record Saturday against William Woods.
"I don't think it's going to be touched for a while," Oswald said of Widaman's career mark.