Columbia College coach Bob Burchard said his team needs some time off, but he was glad the Cougars didn’t start the semester break prematurely against Tabor College on Friday.
The Cougars defeated the Bluejays 82-55 at the Arena of Southwell Complex for their 10th consecutive win.
Khamari Ballard led the Cougars with 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting. He scored 19 in the first half and watched most of the second from the bench.
“Penetration was the key,” he said. “I was a little bit quicker than the guy that was guarding me, so I felt like I could get to the hole. Anytime they helped, I could just pass it out to one of my teammates, and they’ll finish it for me too.”
The Cougars (13-1) shot 55.8 percent, had 22 assists and committed nine turnovers.
“I was real happy with our whole team (and) with their enthusiasm,” Burchard said. “In a game where a coach fears you might take it off and be ready for vacation, our guys played very intense.
“We do need a little bit of a vacation. We’re going to take a week off, and then focus for the second half.”
Andre Amos and Nahowan Saxon each scored 17. Saxon has averaged 16.2 points in his team’s past five games. He also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
“Nahowan’s on a serious incline,” Burchard said. “His skill level is improving, his understanding is improving and his confidence is improving. Now all of a sudden we’re saying, ‘Find Nahowan.’”
Brad Hemmer’s hustle and precise shooting gave the Cougars a spark off the bench. He scored 10 points in 16 minutes and inspired his teammates with his reckless pursuit of loose balls.
“I was real happy with Brad,” Burchard said. “I thought we had a couple opportunities in the first half where there were (loose) balls and we made the decision not to go after them. Those types of plays are game-changers in my mind.”
The No. 15 Cougars started well offensively, but they gave up several uncontested layups in the first 10 minutes. Burchard said his post players were leaving their men to help on penetration too early, and the Bluejays were simply finding the open players. When Cougars center Craig Bryan held his position long enough, it usually meant trouble for the Bluejays (5-9). Bryan blocked six shots, a team-high for the season.
Ballard said his team is a little ahead of schedule, and chances of winning an American Midwest Conference title and qualifying for the NAIA national tournament still look good.
“I wanted to win all 14 of them, but unfortunately we took a loss,” he said. “If we take another loss, we’re going to try to get 10 wins for every one loss.”