Khamari Ballard didn’t beat Harris-Stowe State by himself Tuesday, but the box score suggests he could have come close.
His school-record scoring performance helped Columbia College defeat the Hornets 119-45 in the first round of the American Midwest Conference Tournament at The Arena of Southwell Complex.
Ballard scored 52 on 18-of-29 shooting. He also made 8-of-15 3-pointers. Ballard set the record with 47 points against the Hornets on Jan. 24.
Coach Bob Burchard said Ballard’s torrid scoring pace kept his team interested despite the Cougars’ huge lead.
“How many times do you see a guy score 50 points?” he said. “I think as the game wore on, we saw this was going to be a possibility. I think that was important to them, so they kept playing hard. I think he did it in 28 minutes.”
No. 8 Columbia College (30-3) faces No. 25 McKendree (Ill.) in the second round at 7 p.m. Thursday in Columbia.
The Cougars did everything they could to create opportunities for Ballard, and the Hornets (1-31) did little to stop him. The Cougars had a season-high 34 assists, including Andre Amos’ nine and Brad Hemmer’s eight.
In contrast, the Hornets had five assists and played porous defense, giving Ballard several uncontested shots. Ballard said he was pleased the Cougars didn’t play down to the Hornets’ level and said his team’s hustle was strong throughout.
“That’s a real good sign because we’re coming in probably going to have to play McKendree next,” Ballard said. “We just wanted to come out with a good start in the tournament. If we have to dive on the floor to win ball games, I guess we’re going to have to dive on the floor.”
Craig Bryan, the Cougars’ starting center, notched his first double-double as a Cougar, scoring 13 and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. Nahowan Saxon, a sophomore forward, made all six of his field goals and scored 18 in 20 minutes.
“He is a really important part of who we are,” Burchard said. “We need him to play well. He looked lively.”
The Hornets had an early 6-3 lead before the Cougars went on a 15-2 run that gave them an 18-8 advantage with 14:02 left in the first half. Burchard said he never thought his team would look past the Hornets.
“You just name a time, and they love to play,” he said. “I’m never concerned about that. I think the one thing you can take from today’s game is our guys are really still excited about playing.”