Cougars’ bench key to victory

Sunday, February 20, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:41 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

The ineptitude of the Illinois-Springfield men’s basketball team was on full display Saturday at the Arena of Southwell Complex.

While the Prairie Stars committed technical fouls and missed free throws, Columbia College led throughout its undramatic 69-52 win.

“I thought we defended really well to start the game,” coach Bob Burchard said. “I was really happy with their passion.”

The Cougars (19-11, 8-2 American Midwest Conference) channeled frustrations lingering from Thursday’s 82-72 loss at Williams Baptist into an inspired and crisp performance.

“We knew we had a little letdown down there,” senior forward Tim Melz said. “We knew we had to come up here stronger and get the win.”

Illinois-Springfield (8-19, 4-6) afforded the Cougars every opportunity, committing two first-half technical fouls and missing 15 foul shots.

The Prairie Stars augmented those missteps by shooting 37 percent.

Columbia College was led by junior guard Terrance Smith, who played more interior basketball than usual while scoring 17.

“(That ability) is always there,” Smith said. “Whenever they stop one thing, you have to go somewhere else.”

Differences in bench production proved significant.

The Cougars’ bench players outscored their counterparts 31-10 and, unlike the Prairie Stars’ bench, they did not earn a technical foul.

After a Columbia College turnover with 1:12 left in the first half, referees responded to chatter coming from the Illinois-Springfield bench by issuing it a technical foul, the team’s second of the game.

“We don’t have a whole lot of that in us,” Burchard said. “That’s kind of not our thing.”

The Cougars capitalized on Illinois-Springfield’s behavior by making all four free throws that resulted from the technical fouls.

Leading by 20 at halftime, Burchard was able to rest some of his starters as well as award minutes to players deeper on his bench.

While Melz led bench players with 14 points, the Cougars got quality minutes from sophomore guard Andreas Jakobsen (12 points) and junior forward Obinna Amaefule.

“(Amaefule) is starting to consistently do things, and that’s nice,” Burchard said. “That’s a nice rotation for us.”

Amaefule finished with four points and three rebounds in less than eight minutes.

The win keeps Columbia College in second place in the AMC, tied with McKendree (Ill.). The Cougars play first-place Missouri Baptist on the road Thursday.

The Cougars, who returned to their winning ways after losing for the first time in eight games, were focused throughout.

“I think Thursday’s loss and the travel were so tough,” Buchard said. “I was afraid that they might come out a little hung-over, but they didn’t show that.”

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