Sometimes reaching the semifinals of the conference tournament is as easy as beating a 20-loss team at home.
And sometimes it’s as difficult as withstanding the hardest charge a well-coached underdog can muster.
The Columbia College men’s basketball team accomplished both Thursday with a 81-65 win against Harris-Stowe at the Arena of Southwell Complex, which earned the No. 2 seed Cougars (21-12) a trip to the America Midwest Conference semifinals.
Columbia College withstood the Hornets’ 11-man rotation and full-court press to lead 36-27 at halftime.
“We probably turned over the ball a few times there, getting sped up a little bit,” junior guard Terrance Smith said. “But that’s what the press is supposed to do.”
Throughout the game, Harris-Stowe (7-24) coach Rich Fanning substituted in five fresh players with hopes of maintaining defensive pressure.
“Their strategy was to … put a ton of pressure on us, just to try to get the game out of rhythm,” Cougars coach Bob Burchard said. “Really I think, in a lot of ways, the game was kind of played that way.”
The seventh-seeded Hornets’ intensity was not enough to overcome the outstanding play of a Cougars trio that helped seal the game in the second half.
Smith led the way with 26 points, including six 3-pointers. Smith credited his performance to extra time spent in the gymnasium Thursday morning.
“I came in, been doing a little extra shooting,” Smith said. “I’ve been kind of struggling with my legs a little bit, getting kind of late in the season.”
Burchard said Smith’s play did not surprise him, given his enthusiasm.
“You can tell when guys are going to play. Terrance was in here all morning working out,” Burchard said. “All of a sudden he comes up with a big game and you go, all right, that makes sense. So, maybe we ought to get them all in here at 11 o’clock.”
Another highlight was sophomore guard Andreas Jakobsen, who provided stellar minutes off the Cougars’ bench. Several times Jakobsen faced up against Hornet defenders, penetrated from the perimeter and finished with a creative layup.
“I know I can take everybody off the dribble and it’s just a matter of the right time,” he said.
Jakobsen finished with 12 points and seven assists.
“(Jakobsen) had his chin on his chest for awhile,” Burchard said. “He had a good week of practice and he carried it into the game, which is good. We need him to score some points for us.”
Nahowan Saxon, a junior forward, continued his consistent production. Saxon had 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, his second straight double-double.
The Cougars host No. 3 seed McKendree on Saturday in the conference