Columbia College’s search for shot blocking might be over, but it probably didn’t expect its starting point guard to fill the void.
Malcolm Mahogany’s second-half defense helped the Cougars defeat Central Methodist College 85-76 on Tuesday night at The Arena of Southwell Complex.
Mahogany blocked three shots in the second half and added a pivotal steal. The Cougars (11-1) had five blocks.
“Malcolm is a beast on (defense),” Cougars guard Aaron Edwards said. “We were just going after the balls, and we just want to get everything we can.”
Khamari Ballard, Andre Amos and Nahowan Saxon each scored 20 for the Cougars. Saxon’s total came in 16 minutes off the bench. He was 7-of-8 shooting.
“I guess I’m still feeling it,” Saxon said. “Once I (catch) the ball in good position, I think I can make good decisions.”
Cougars coach Bob Burchard said: “I think his level of play is raising every game that we play.”
Ballard matched the Eagles’ scoring in the first five minutes with eight. His 3-pointer with 15:11 left in the first half put the Cougars up 15-8.
The Eagles (4-8) made several runs that kept the game close, but the Cougars never trailed. The Eagles went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 25 with 6:22 left in the half, but Edwards’ consecutive 3-pointers stretched the Cougars’ lead to 31-25 a minute later. The Cougars would lead by at least six for the duration.
Despite hitting key shots Tuesday, and winning shots in two of his past four games, Edwards said he gives his teammates most of the credit for his success.
“We just work the ball, and if I’m open I shoot it,” he said. “We did a lot of little things, like kicking the ball out and hitting shots.”
The Eagles cut the lead to 66-60 with 5:50 left, but another Edwards’ 3-pointer stopped the Eagles’ momentum. Saxon made 6-of-6 free throws in the final two minutes, starting with a one-and-one that stretched the Cougars’ lead to 77-67.
The No. 15 Cougars executed their offense brilliantly in the first half. They shot 61.5 percent, made all seven of their free throws and turned the ball over four times.
“It was a really outstanding offensive effort,” Burchard said. “I thought our offensive efficiency was real strong.”
Johnny Viehland dominated the Cougars’ defense on the inside, scoring 26 on 11-of-14. He was virtually unstoppable when he got deep position, but he was aided by Saxon’s foul problems. Saxon played with four fouls for most of the second half, causing him to play less aggressively against Viehland.
Amos, who also led his team with six rebounds and five assists, said his tweaked right knee is feeling better than it has in weeks. He has played guard his entire career, but Burchard has played him in the post at times this season. Burchard said Amos was his most effective defender against Viehland, despite Amos’ inexperience as a post player.
“I’m getting bruised up a lot, both in practice and in games,” Amos said. “I’m just getting used to playing down there, and I’ll get better as the year goes on.”