Cougars to face tough challenge from McKendree

Thursday, January 20, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:08 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

The Columbia College men’s basketball team can take an important step toward repeating as American Midwest Conference champions at 7 tonight when the Cougars play host to a good McKendree Bearcats team.

“That’s going to be a big game and that’s going to tell us how we are,” senior forward Craig Bryan said. “If we can play like we can then we can beat McKendree.”

The Cougars will take a 1-0 conference record into the game at the Arena of Southwell Complex. The Bearcats are ranked 14th in NAIA Division I. McKendree is 2-0 in the AMC and 16-4 overall.

Having won two of three games against McKendree last season, the Cougars understand a strong showing against a powerhouse like McKendree is essential if they expect to repeat as conference champions.

“McKendree’s great, they’re one of the top 10 teams in the country,” coach Bob Burchard said. “If you’re going to win a conference championship you’ve got to play well against them.”

The game comes at an opportune time for the Cougars. After struggling early this season, the team has recently settled into a groove. Following a 5-8 start, Columbia College has won 6-of-7 in route to a 11-9 record. With heavy conference play about to begin, the Cougars areplaying their best basketball at the right time.

With a victory Monday night against Lindenwood, Columbia Collegeextended its winning streak to four games. After the game, leading scorer Terrance Smith said the team is where it wants to be.

“We’re just clicking together right now,” Smith said. “It’s kind of coming together in practice and so it’s showing on the court.”

Burchard echoed Smith’s sentiments.

“When you feel good about yourselves you have the tendency to play better,” Burchard said. “I think the team right now feels real good about themselves.”

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