A groin injury limited Columbia College junior forward Nahowan Saxon to a little over four minutes of play the last two games, but Thursday night he made a successful return.
Saxon contributed more than 27 minutes and scored a game-high 18 points, including 11 in the first half to lead the Cougars to a 75-47 win against Maryville at The Arena of Southwell Complex.
Saxon’s scoring was exactly what Columbia College (6-8) needed after leading scorer Terrance Smith (16.6 points per game) missed all four of his attempts in the first half. The Cougars still emerged with a 20-point halftime lead.
“I had a little trouble getting in the rhythm,” Smith said. “I don’t think it had anything to do with their defense.”
Instead, the Cougars’ large halftime lead was due to a defense that produced 10 steals and 14 Maryville turnovers, which turned into 18 Columbia College points.
“We came out and guarded the ball pretty well,” Smith said.
Combine that with a 3-point shooting percentage that was better than Maryville’s total field goal percentage, 25 first-half points from Nahowan Saxon and Andreas Jakobsen. Smith was held scoreless until the latter part of the second half.
“We’re not dependent on one guy,” Saxon said.
With 13 minutes left in the first half, Columbia College began to take control of the game. Guard Aaron Edwards drained a jumper to give the Cougars a 13-12 lead.
Four minutes later, forward Tim Melz hit a 3-pointer that marked a 10-0 run and gave the Cougars a nine-point lead.
With 2:05 left in the first half, a single play summed up the night for both the Cougars and Maryville.
A Maryville layup curled out of the basket and Saxon swatted it across the length of the court.
Andreas Jakobsen picked it up, made the layup and drew a foul. The three-point play gave Columbia College a 20-point lead.
The Cougars dominated Maryville (2-7), gaining 35 points from 28 turnovers by the Saints. Maryville converted eight points off of 14 turnovers.
“We came out and put it together as a team, which is what we need going into conference,” Smith said.
The Cougars begin conference play at Harris-Stowe State College on Jan. 15. They have a couple of weeks off before playing again at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic Jan. 3-4.