KANSAS CITY — With Columbia College trailing early in the second half, Cougars guard Marcus Bradford had just been called for a loose ball foul that could have gone either way. Instead of arguing the call, he turned his back on the referee and faced media row.
Instead of aiming expletives away from the court, he stayed silent and just stared. It was a stare of both frustration and anger, a reaction to a moment that perfectly summarized his team’s 91-64 loss to No. 7 seed Oklahoma City on Thursday at Municipal Auditorium. The loss eliminated Columbia College (24-9) from the 2006 NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Tournament.
Like the play that led to Bradford’s foul, the effort and hustle were there. The luck and results simply were not.
“I thought it was a good fight. I thought we competed really hard tonight,” coach Bob Burchard said. “I’m disappointed that we lost, but not in how we played.”
The way Oklahoma City played, no coach could possibly have been dissapointed in losing.
Oklahoma City shot 62.5 percent from the field and made 5-of-9 3-point attempts. Reserve guard Rory Green, who came into Thursday’s game averaging 10.2 points per game, scored 11 of his 14 in the first half.
“We knew coming in that we needed to have a great game to beat them,” Cougars forward Bryant Chambly said. “They are a very good basketball team. They are very talented.”
Columbia College couldn’t keep up with Oklahoma City’s talent and was forced to play catch-up for most of the night. At times, the Cougars looked disoriented on offense.
On one possession late in the first half, Cougars guard Terrance Smith was looking for a screen from forward Nahowan Saxon. When the screen didn’t come quickly enough for Smith, he yelled in frustration at his teammate.
When the Cougars weren’t failing to set screens, they occasionally forgot to use basic basketball fundamentals. Guard Terren Wilson was twice called for palming the basketball. The call, which is rarely seen, seemed to confuse Wilson. After both calls, he could do nothing more than muster a smile and jog down the court. Wilson’s palming calls were two of Columbia College’s 21 turnovers, a stat that Burchard was disappointed in.
“I’m not happy about that. We could have done better than that,” Burchard said. “Bottom line, we weren’t being very efficient offensively. They would hit threes while we weren’t getting shots.”
By the second half, the Cougars did start to hit some shots. Chambly scored 15 of his 17 points after halftime. His effort, however, wasn’t good enough to overcome a 17-point halftime deficit.
Reality seemed to hit the Cougars bench late in the half, when Columbia College trailed by as much as 32. Smith, playing his last game for the Cougars, put a towel over his head to possibly hide tears. Bradford put his head down, preferring to look at the floor rather than watch the end of the season.
Chambly, who has one year left at Columbia College, said he many thoughts entered his mind late in a game that had been long decided.
“You get mad, angry, sad. Just all kinds of emotions run through you,” Chambly said. “All the work you put in, all the fatigue, you think about. You’re anxious, disappointed. So many things hit you at once.”
Something similar happened to Saxon.
“At some point, you just start daydreaming about how this could be the end,” Saxon said after his last game as a Cougar. “It just hits you.”
Smith, while disappointed in how his career ended, was prideful about his team.
“I’m proud of my teammates. I was glad to be on this team.”