The last time Columbia College and Williams Baptist squared off, the Cougars did something no other team in the American Midwest Conference could do this season: Stop forward Kyle Harvey.
Columbia College stymied Harvey, holding the AMC's leading scorer to just nine points — his lowest total of the season — on its way to a 89-53 win on Jan. 31. If the Cougars are going to advance to the AMC tournament final, they are going to have to put up a similar effort on Saturday night.
"Just like last time, I've got to try to not make him catch the ball," said Cougars guard Derrick Dilworth, who guarded Harvey that night in January and will be on him again Saturday. "That's the easiest way to guard him, I think."
It's more complicated to Columbia College head coach Bob Burchard. Williams Baptist's offense has revolved more and more around Harvey, who averages 19.6 points per game, as the season has progressed. Burchard said that Williams Baptist coaches have shifted their offensive focus since the last time the two teams played: Williams Baptist is now more of a one-man show.
"They've changed what they do offensively. They're really isolating him like crazy," Burchard said. "Almost putting him on one side of the floor and four people on the other side. They are doing things to give him as much space as possible."
Burchard and assistant coach Matt Brock could be found in the locker room after practice Friday, hashing out ideas on a whiteboard on how to keep Harvey in check. Dilworth will guard him to start because of his long arms, quickness and grit.
“It’s a tough matchup because they move him around the floor so much,” Burchard said. “You need somebody that can match his toughness.”
The rest of the team will be in "help" defense, where the mission is to prevent the next pass. That's the first part of the plan. But defensive strategy often changes many times within a game in an attempt to throw off the offense. As for what Burchard will do if the first plan shows holes?
“We’re still working on it,” he said.
Dilworth was elbowed in the face in the opening minutes of the Jan. 31 game and missed almost half of the first half. The Cougars shifted to a zone defense in his absence, which sometimes left Harvey open on the wing. Other times it left him to forward Marquette Murrell, an obvious mismatch in Harvey's favor, and other times to point guard Chantel Stanciel, who played him well.
“Most of their offense goes through (Harvey),” Dilworth said. “We need to focus on him. He’s the key.”