Bob Burchard, the Columbia College men’s basketball coach, and Mike Davis, the Cougars’ women’s coach, love to win and hate to lose, but this weekend’s second annual Coaches vs. Cancer Holiday Classic is about more than wins and losses.
Burchard and Davis started the Classic last season because of a common concern. They both knew friends, family members and Columbia College faculty members who with cancer.
The Classic’s proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.
“I think it means a ton to both Mike and I and the Columbia College community,” Burchard said. “It’s an issue that touches all of us. It’s a great chance for us to do something worthwhile and also a great chance for great competition.”
Davis said: “We are really pleased to be associated with (the event). This year, I know sponsor-wise we’ve got a lot of different people getting involved, and it’s something that hopefully will grow and become a great holiday tradition.”
Eight games will be played today and Saturday at the Arena of Southwell Complex. The Classic begins at 2 p.m. today with the William Woods women’s team taking on Georgetown (Ky.).
The No. 15 Cougars’ men’s team (13-1) plays St. Mary (Kan.) at 8 p.m. today and Brescia (Ky.) at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Burchard said he expects St. Mary will be well prepared for his team. St. Mary assistant coach Drew Grzella played for Burchard at Columbia College for two seasons.
“It’s really special to have (Grzella) come back to our place as a coach,” Burchard said. “He knows us probably better than I do, so I think that’s going to cause us a challenge.”
The Cougars’ offense played well in December, scoring at least 82 points in every game. Senior guard Khamari Ballard scored 25.4 per game during that span. They also shot at least 50 percent in four of five December games.
The Cougars haven’t played since their 82-55 win against Tabor (Kan.) on Dec. 19. Burchard said the break has helped senior guard Andre Amos, who leads the Cougars in rebounds and assists, and starting center Craig Bryan recover from nagging injuries. Amos has been playing with a tweaked left knee, and Bryan has struggled with his mobility because of turf toe injuries.
The No. 19 Cougars women’s team (6-5) face two nationally-ranked opponents. Evangel, which plays the Cougars at 6 p.m. today, is No. 12 in NAIA Division II. The Cougars also play No. 14 Georgetown at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Davis said he expects tough competition, but his team is ready for the challenge after losing its past three and not playing since Dec. 20.
“At the end of first semester, we were just not a very good team,” he said. “I think we’ve had a very good week since we’ve been back, but now you carry it over to the games and see if it goes from the practice court to the game court.”
The Cougars have shot well all season (46.2 percent), but Davis said his team must commit fewer turnovers. Since turning over the ball 10 times against Newman (Kan.) on Nov. 20, the Cougars have averaged 24.2 in their past six games.
“We are going to turn it over some with how we play, but at the same time, I feel like we’ve had an excess,” Davis said. “That hasn’t been our only problem. We haven’t done a good job on the defensive end controlling penetration. So, we’ve tried to make a few adjustments to help on both of those things.”
The Missouri Baptist men’s team plays Brescia at 4 p.m. today. On Saturday, the Evangel women’s team plays William Woods at 2 p.m., and the St. Mary men’s team faces Missouri Baptist at 4 p.m.