The Columbia College men’s basketball team suffered one of the most improbable scoring droughts in recent memory en route to an exciting finish in the semifinals of the American Midwest Conference Tournament at the Arena at Southwell Complex.
After dominating nearly every facet of play for most of Saturday’s 63-62 loss to McKendree (Ill.), the Cougars (21-13) scored just one point in the game’s final six minutes, including a last-second scoring opportunity that never took flight.
Down by one with 11 seconds left, the Cougars rebounded a missed foul shot by McKendree guard Bryant Lyles. Aaron Edwards dribbled past halfcourt, made use of a screen set by forward Craig Bryan, and was double-teamed.
Edwards reversed the ball to Bryan at the top of the key. Bryan, standing at the outer-most reaches of his range, declined the shot with less than five seconds left. Bryan’s pass reached forward Nahowan Saxon, but Saxon’s deep shot attempt came after time expired.
McKendree fans in attendance swarmed the Bearcat players celebrating on the court.
“We were trying to penetrate … and see if we could get fouled,” Cougars coach Bob Burchard said.
“I wanted to go as far north and south as possible and see if we could at least put some pressure on them, make the officials make a call or something. That’s not what happened.”
The disappointment came after Columbia College executed impressively for most of the game. The Cougars defense created turnovers and frustrated most of the Bearcats’ players, while guard Terrance Smith and Saxon, capitalized offensively.
With six minutes to play, Columbia College led 61-47. And with Saxon hustling for loose balls and offensive rebounds, the crowd energy created appeared to give the Cougars all the momentum. Curiously, the Cougars stopped scoring.
“We just got stagnant offensively,” Burchard said. “They picked up their defensive pressure. They put the heat on us and we just didn’t respond very well.
“They made the plays late that we didn’t really make. We just weren’t really offensively efficient.”
McKendree guard Brad Fischer made a 3-point shot on the next possession, and after Bryan missed the front end of a one-and-one, Lyles made a layup while being fouled to give McKendree the lead with 11 seconds left, its first lead of the second half.