Columbia College and East-West (Ill.) are polar opposites in terms of strategy, demeanor and success.
The Cougars beat the Phantoms 104-57 on Saturday at The Arena of Southwell Complex.
The No. 7 Cougars’ 16-game win streak matches the school record set in 1990-91 and 2000-01.
The Phantoms (2-23) kept the score close for most of the first half, but their phantom defense caused their eventual demise.
The Cougars led 32-28 with 5:15 left in the first half before going on a 19-3 run to end the half.
Tim Melz, a junior forward, took advantage of the Phantoms’ porous defense by hitting 6-of-7 in the first half, including two 3-pointers. Melz finished with a career-high 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting. He said he was surprised how open the Phantoms left him.
“Their bigger guys were just laying off, so I could just catch and let it go,” he said. “It was falling tonight.”
Nahowan Saxon led the Cougars with 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting. He also had two high-flying dunks that he said were especially satisfying against the Cougars’ loud-mouthed opponents.
“That’s all they were doing was talking,” he said. “I used my dunk to kind of keep them down a little bit.”
While the Phantoms defense was virtually nonexistent, the Cougars (19-1) scored 23 off 21 Phantom turnovers.
The Cougars also outrebounded the Phantoms 44-27.
“At the beginning, we started to play like those guys,” Saxon said. “(In those kind of games), you tend to slip from what you normally do. I think we stepped it up big in the second half and started playing our type of ballgame.”
Melz said: “We were a little bigger than them down low. (We’d) give them a shot fake or two, and they were all jumping.”
Although the score was close for the first 15 minutes, Cougar coach Bob Burchard said he thought the Phantoms’ primarily one-on-one offense would break down.
The Cougars had 23 assists to the Phantoms’ seven.
“They didn’t seem to be too concerned with passing the ball,” he said. “When we figured out they weren’t going to get past us and go to somebody else, then we just really flooded the lane.”
Khamari Ballard and Andre Amos, who are roommates, entered the game tied for the NAIA lead in steals. Ballard had four steals to Amos’ three.
Josh Hedrick gave the Cougars a solid 10 minutes off the bench. Hedrick, who gained his eligibility Jan. 2, came in with 8:30 left in the first half and immediately made a 3-pointer. He scored seven, handed out three assists and had active hands defensively.
Gregory McNeal led the Phantoms with 15 first-half points but scored two in the second.