COLUMBIA — When the Freed-Hardeman University women’s basketball team battled Columbia College on Jan. 18, they were seeking revenge.
Columbia beat Freed-Hardeman in 2009 and 2010, in the only two previous contests between the teams. The Lions, who moved to the American Midwest Conference from the TranSouth Athletic Conference last year, set out to assert themselves as alpha dogs of their new league in the Jan. 18 game.
“Trust me, (the previous two contests were) very much on their mind when we played, and they were on a mission,” Columbia College coach Mike Davis said. “We didn’t have any answers for them.”
The Cougars weren’t ready for the Lions. Columbia College came out flat and were down by 26 points at halftime en route to a 95-68 defeat.
“We kind of underestimated them,” said junior guard Danielle Duncan. “We hadn’t played competition as good as them, and they were just more physical than us.”
So physical, in fact, that the game got chippy. There were 55 total fouls, and Columbia College junior guard Petrolina Chilaka and Freed-Hardeman junior guard/forward Grace Alonso de Armino were each given technical fouls after a second half skirmish.
Since the Freed-Hardeman game, the Cougars have won their past 10 games by a staggering average of 32.1 points per game. Columbia College, however, hasn’t faced a team as good as the Lions since Jan. 18. A year removed from making the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics “Fab Four,” Freed-Hardeman is the No. 2 team in the NAIA and hadn’t lost a game until Feb. 15 against Lyon.
“They play very well together, and even though they aren’t deep, they have some really talented players,” Davis said of the Freed-Hardeman team.
Saturday’s rematch at 2 p.m. in the Arena of the Southwell Complex will have major conference implications for both teams. A victory for either No. 12 Columbia (22-5, 18-1) or Freed-Hardeman (26-1, 18-1) would put the winner in poll position in the AMC. With just two games remaining for each team against opponents they have already beaten by large margins this season, the winner is likely to win the conference and receive an automatic bid to the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Tournament.
This time it will be the surging Cougars seeking revenge. And this time they believe they are up to the task.
“We weren’t as focused at that point in the season as we are now,” Duncan said. “We’re a different team. Saturday’s gonna be a whole 'nother ball game.”