COLUMBIA – Marquette Murrell was all smiles before Thursday’s AMC tournament game against Hannibal-LaGrange.
The senior forward, beaming joyously as he dunked during a layup drill, was entertaining the fans that packed the stands for the first round tournament game between the top-seeded Cougars and ninth-seeded Trojans. Murrell, who said he likes entertaining fans with his dunks, often warms up his dunks in practice. Tonight, though, there were two fans in particular Murrell was trying to impress – his parents.
“I always feel an extra boost of energy when they make it to the games,” said Murrell, whose parents drove 400 miles from their home in Memphis to watch their son play. “Since the weather has been so bad they haven’t made that many games this year. Last year they were here for every Saturday game.”
Murrell did his parents proud, leading all Cougars with 29 minutes-played and eight points – four of which coming off of heart-stopping transition dunks – as Columbia College won easily 67-52 at the Arena of Southwell Complex.
“We should ship them in all the time,” Columbia coach Bob Burchard joked about Murrell’s parents. “He always plays great when they’re here.”
While his transition play energized the Cougars on offense, Murrell also had to try to shut down Hannibal-LaGrange’s Jurgen Lico (17 points), the Trojans' dangerous point-forward that sunk five 3-pointers.
“You’d normally want a quicker three guarding (Lico), but I thought for the most part Marquette played great on him,” Burchard said. “He’s a really tough guard. He’s a '4' for them but he’s got '3' skills.”
Murrell’s presence on the court helped contain Lico, as he and center Jordan Dressler controlled the paint while sweeping in a combined 12 rebounds.
“He’s a great shooter,” Murrell said of Lico. “Any time you gave him room to breathe he let it go, but I think I did an okay job [guarding him].”
Dressler, who along with Murrell was among five Cougars honored before the game at a postponed senior night ceremony, led all players with four blocks.
“I thought our defense really picked us up and got us going,” Dressler said. “The energy was part of that.”
That energy started when Murrell threw down a two-handed jam early in the first half. All alone after a quick transition from a Hannibal-LaGrange turnover, Murrell’s feet lifted off the hardwood as he flew across the paint toward the hoop. No one was even near him, just air. When he landed, that peace turned to jubilation as the Cougar fans and players roared from their seats in applause.
“It’s always nice to see Marquette dunk because it just gets you pumped up,” Dressler said.
Murrell added another high-energy dunk with 4:52 left in the second half, as well as another transition bucket after soaring to collect a poorly located Derrick Dilworth pass.
“I try to dunk it every time I’m open,” Murrell said. “It’s what I live for.”
Murrell will have more opportunities to show off his aerial abilities, as Columbia College advances to the AMC tournament semifinals when it hosts Williams Baptist College on Saturday. Weather permitting, Murrell's parents will again be able to see their son slam it home.