Andre Amos, a Columbia College senior, was so determined to win Saturday against McKendree (Ill.) that not even a nasty blow to the head could disrupt his concentration.
The Cougars beat the Bearcats 83-79 in front of perhaps the season’s largest crowd at The Arena of Southwell Complex. The win puts the Cougars in a first-place tie with Missouri Baptist for the American Midwest Conference lead.
With his team up 81-79 with 3.8 seconds left, Amos grabbed Tim Schumacher’s intentionally missed free throw, got his feet taken out from under him and hit the back of his head on the floor. Amos rubbed his head in pain but sank both free throws and essentially ended the game.
“It was all right; I already have a little knot back there,” Amos said. “I’ve got two now. I was pretty much just dizzy for about five seconds, but by the time I walked to the line I was all right.”
Amos scored the Cougars’ first eight points and made all five of his 3-pointers in the first half. He scored a game-high 28.
Khamari Ballard, a senior guard, scored 22 for the Cougars. His 22.4 points per game is the nation’s fourth-best average, but he said the Cougars are more than a one-man show.
“What people fail to realize is a lot of people on our team can shoot the ball,” he said. “Just because I’m the leading scorer, they look at me. They just don’t know Andre can light it up with the best of them.”
The No. 6 Cougars (26-2, 7-1 AMC) have avenged their losses. They have won six straight since losing at McKendree 73-65 on Jan. 29. The Cougars beat Lyon (Ark.) on Jan. 10 at home 78-57 after losing to the Scots 67-48 on Nov. 15.
The Cougars had lost their previous seven meetings with the Bearcats (20-8, 6-3 AMC).
Four was the biggest lead for either team in the first 15 minutes, but the Cougars owned a 45-34 advantage at halftime. The Bearcats went on a 16-3 run to cut the lead to 64-60 with 8:42 left.
The Cougars responded with a 10-0 run during the next 3:08. During that span, Aaron Edwards made four straight free throws after Harry Statham, the Bearcats’ coach, received a technical foul for disputing Edwards’ initial trip to the line.
In the first half, it appeared the Bearcats could exploit the Cougars’ lack of size. The Bearcats’ Pete Krumsieg, a 6-foot-9 center, made all five of his shots in the first half, but the Cougars’ perimeter defense harassed the Bearcats’ guards and made getting the ball inside a challenge.