Khamari Ballard’s scoring ability earned him second-team All-America honors last season, but his defensive prowess might propel him to first team this year.
The Columbia College men’s basketball team beat the College of the Ozarks 67-52 on Monday at the Arena of Southwell Complex despite one of its worst shooting performances of the season.
Ballard, a senior guard, scored a game-high 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting while his teammates combined to shoot 13-of-43.
Cougars coach Bob Burchard said he marvels at Ballard’s defensive commitment.
Ballard led the Cougars with three steals.
“He has become a defensive player,” Burchard said. “We’re now asking him to defend like 93 feet of the floor. It doesn’t seem to have affected his play. It almost seems to energize him.”
Said Ballard: “You can always make up for a missed shot if you play good defense. Fortunately, we were able to do that.”
The No. 8 Cougars (18-1) extended their winning streak to 15.
Although the Cougars shot 36.5 percent, their defense held the Bobcats to 36 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers. The Cougars also blocked seven shots, including three by Craig Bryan.
The Bobcats (5-8) trailed 9-2 before scoring 10 straight. The Bobcats led until Andre Amos’ putback gave the Cougars a 17-16 with 8:22 left in the half.
The Cougars led for the duration, but the Bobcats kept it close until the final two minutes.
Bobcats freshman Brandon Argo, who led his team with 18 points, made two free throws with 3:20 left to cut the lead to 56-50.
The Cougars closed the game on an 11-2 run.
Junior forward Tim Melz struggled shooting but grabbed several key rebounds. He had a game-high four offensive rebounds.
“They slowed it down quite a bit,” he said. “We were trying to get the rebound and run in the first half and didn’t get (many opportunities). In the second half, we tried to have everybody crash from every position and see what we could get.”
Nahowan Saxon, who was the Coaches vs. Cancer Holiday Classic Most Valuable player, injured his right leg in the Cougars’ 78-57 win against Lyon (Ark.) on Saturday.
He sat out the last 14:23 of that game but played 24 minutes Monday and appeared healthy.
Burchard said he wasn’t concerned about his team’s lackluster shooting.
“Even though we didn’t shoot the ball that well from the field we played good basketball,” he said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win the game.”