Saxon key for Cougars

Friday, December 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:43 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

His teammates call him “Slinky,” and though he has a thin frame, there’s nothing weak or flimsy about Nahowan Saxon’s game.

His strong play off the bench helped Columbia College defeat Central Bible 87-66 on Thursday night at the Arena of Southwell Complex.

Saxon had 22 points, seven rebounds and made all 16 of his free throws.

“I got into rhythm (at the free-throw line),” Saxon said. “I was just feeling it from the beginning.”

Khamari Ballard, the Cougars’ leading scorer with 18.5 points per game, found his scoring touch after a subpar shooting performance in last weekend’s Thanksgiving Classic. He scored 22 on 8-of-10 shooting.

“It felt a whole lot better (to make shots),” Ballard said. “It’s all on us. If we don’t want work hard and get open shots, it’s not going to come easy for us.”

Said Cougars coach Bob Burchard: “He looked back again, and he looked comfortable. I thought he had been really pressing in the Classic. He was under control, and I was happy to see that.”

The Cougars led 50-32 at halftime and committed one turnover. The Cougars’ pressure man-to-man defense forced the Spartans into errant passes and helped Columbia College to an early 19-8 advantage.

Burchard said he was pleased the Cougars (9-1) didn’t look past an overmatched opponent.

“I thought our guys were really determined,” he said. “I was happy with our intensity level to start the game. I thought we made a strong defensive stand early and they got themselves a lead.”

The Cougars led by at least 18 throughout the second half. Burchard took advantage of the large lead and rewarded some role players with needed minutes. Craig Bryan has started eight of the Cougars’ 10 games but averages 12 minutes.

“When you’re 10 games into the schedule, sometimes your rotation gets a little tight,” Burchard said. “We haven’t been playing Craig that many minutes recently, but I was really happy with how he played. I thought he was really solid in the post and defensively. We’ve been playing awfully small, and we need to have an inside presence.”

Andre Amos, the Cougars’ second-leading scorer with 16.5 points per game, scored four after tweaking his knee in practice Wednesday.

“It’s a big concern,” Burchard said. “We’ll have to see what the doctors say, but I thought he was running well and playing well. I took him out, and I think it might have stiffened up on him.”

The Spartans (7-6) struggled offensively. Will Kitchen kept a potential Cougars’ rout at bay by making four 3-pointers in the first half, but he didn’t score after picking up his fourth foul late in the half.

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