It was a record-breaking evening for the Columbia College men’s basketball team, collectively and individually.
The Cougars beat American Midwest Conference rival Harris-Stowe State 109-72 on Saturday at The Arena of Southwell Complex.
Khamari Ballard’s school-record 47 points propelled the No. 6 Cougars to their 17th straight win, which also is a school record.
Marvin Malone set the record in 1990 with 46. The 1990-91 team he played on, along with the 2000-01 Cougars, previously held the school’s longest winning streak.
Ballard played 30 of a possible 40 minutes. He had 25 points at halftime, 16 of them in the first eight minutes. He said he thought every one of his attempts was going in.
“(The record) means a lot,” he said. “When I first got here, I said, ‘Forty-six. I’ve never scored 40 in my entire life.’ So it was kind of a self-made goal.”
In the last 10 minutes, Ballard overcame two obstacles that threatened his career night.
With 9:15 left and the Hornets on the foul line, Ballard’s left arm was bleeding. Under NAIA rules, players must leave the floor if they’re bleeding. Ballard ran to his bench on the opposite end of the court and stealthily hid his cut arm from officials until he stopped the bleeding.
Then, Bob Burchard, the Cougars’ coach, took Ballard out with 7:23 left. Ballard talked Burchard into reinserting him seconds later after realizing he was three points away from Malone’s record.
Craig Bryan, a junior forward, said he was determined to get Ballard the record. Bryan was feverishly setting screens for Ballard and immediately looked for him after grabbing offensive rebounds.
“I was literally honored to set the pick for him,” Bryan said. “Anytime I can help my teammates out, I’ll do it.
“(Ballard) has really been our team leader. I’ll do anything for him.”
Burchard said: “I’m not really big on records and things of that nature, but it’s just fun to see a team very interested in doing something for one of their teammates.”
The Cougars (20-1, 1-0 AMC) started the game with 16 consecutive points. Although Ballard’s red-hot scoring stood out, Burchard said his team’s defense was the key to its fast start.
The Eagles (1-18, 0-2) didn’t give up after facing an early deficit like the Cougars’ previous opponent, East-West (Ill.). After trailing 41-16 with 7:28 left in the first half, the Eagles went on a 15-3 run during the next four minutes.
The Cougars’ superior passing proved too much for the Eagles. The Cougars had 26 assists and 11 turnovers compared with 10 assists and 19 turnovers for the Eagles.