To be honest, Sean Washington said he didn’t know much about College of the Ozarks forward Michael Bonaparte.
Five minutes into the game Washington got his education on the Bobcats’ leading scorer. By the end of the first half, Bonaparte had 17 points.
That’s when Washington decided to take it out on Bonaparte in the second half. Stepping up his defense, he held Bonaparte to just two second-half points in the Cougars’ 89-69 victory Tuesday night in the Southwell Complex.
Washington said he found out he would be guarding Bonaparte about an hour before the game.
If he hadn’t gone on the Internet the night before to look up Bonaparte’s statistics, the first half could have been worse for the Cougars (7-2).
“We got (mad),” Washington said. “We don’t like people coming into here and doing what he did.”
Washington, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, demonstrated his athleticism with three blocks and two steals and stayed out of foul trouble, something that has hurt his game up to this point.
“We need to keep him on the floor and rotate around him,” Cougars’ coach Bob Burchard said.
All season Burchard has preached to his team that it needs to play a more team-oriented style on both ends of the floor. His mantra has been that if you guard on defense, the offense will come. It’s a system that’s starting to win over the players and Burchard included Washington in the group on Tuesday after he finished the game with 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting.
“I thought he was big,” Burchard said. “It was great to see. (Assistant) coach (Mark) Mueller has been saying we need to get more out of his position.”
It came in the second half for Washington and teammate Nahowon Saxon noticed it too, adding that Washington’s better defense and ability to stay out of foul trouble was what the team needed.
“I think we just played stronger and Sean gave us the opportunity to make plays,” Saxon said.
Washington is a newcomer to the team this season.
His previous stop was at Owens Community College in Ohio, where he averaged 8.21 rebounds per game on a team that finished second in the NJCAA Region XII Championships.
Burchard said the matchup problems Washington creates with his size and athleticism are one of the big reasons the coaching staff has asked him to guard opposing teams’ more skilled post players.
“He’s Nahowon-like,” Burchard said. “Maybe a little bit smoother.”
After one of his best halves of basketball this season, Washington was able to shed some frustration.
“It’s about time I stepped up and did something for my team,” he said.