COLUMBIA — Perfection is a tough thing to capture in sports. For every Alabama Crimson Tide, there’s a Johnny Football who comes to steal the show.
If the Columbia College men’s basketball team has a Manziel or anyone that can stop them, it hasn’t found him yet. For a while on Wednesday night, it looked as if that might be Harris-Stowe State which, with just five wins and seven traveling players, would have been the unlikeliest of foes to snap the Cougar’s 28-game winning streak.
Harris-Stowe used a zone defense to hang in with the Cougars, pulling within as close as two with five minutes left in the first half. But then coach Bob Burchard called a timeout, Tanner Sutton hit a few 3-pointers, and Columbia College rolled to an 85-64 win. Just as it has all year.
The fact that merely coming close to leading against the Cougars is considered an accomplishment shows how dominant they have been this season. And just how dominant is that?
Columbia College is ranked No. 1 in the national NAIA poll for a sixth consecutive week. It has been three months since it won a conference game by less than 10 points. It leads the American Midwest Conference in almost every major statistical category. It leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just a 55.1 points per game. It is third nationally in field goal percentage at 50.4 percent.
It has a coach in Bob Burchard with experience, a no-nonsense attitude and a basketball mind. It has leaders, down low in Jordan Dressler, the reigning AMC Player of the Year, and in the backcourt in Devin Griffin. It has rebounders like Marquette Murrell, 3-point shooters in Tanner Sutton and Zach Rockers, a do-it-all swingman in Derrick Dilworth and a deep bench led by Chantel Stanciel.
It’s all added up to as much winning as possible thus far. One more game, Saturday at William Woods University, stands between the Cougars and a perfect regular season.
“The qualities that have made this team what they are: They are extremely intelligent, extremely good defensive team, which has to do with their intelligence,” Burchard said. “And they like being around each other. When you’re together for the length of a basketball season, it's really nice when the chemistry is good.”
A win Saturday would give Burchard his fifth 30-win season. He doesn’t like to compare his team to Cougars teams of the past, but his current group isn’t oblivious to what it's doing and its historical context.
“It would be un-humanlike not to be happy about it,” Stanciel said. “That’s something everyone dreams of doing. We’re aware of our record, and we want to accomplish big things. That’s something you can tell you grandkids about. But we won’t get a ring for it.”
“If we didn’t win another game, that would still be a career year for a lot of people,” Burchard said. “We’re at 29 (wins). Not many people make it to 29.
“We want to finish the race.”