After getting buried early in the season, the Columbia College men’s basketball team has been digging and digging to get back to ground level.
But, just as the Cougars were beginning to see daylight, the hole caved back in on them.
Less than 24 hours after recording its most lopsided win of the season, a 99-43 victory over Concordia Seminary (Mo.) Friday night, Columbia College turned into the overmatched team at home Saturday afternoon, decisively losing to fifth-ranked NAIA Division II Bellevue University (Neb.) 71-59.
The Cougars (5-7) began the season 2-6, but with the return of seniors Marcus Bradford and Terren Wilson, the team reeled off three straight victories to pull within one game of .500.
It didn’t take long for the Bruins (12-0) to dictate the tempo, forcing Columbia College to take off-balance shots against Bellevue’s relentless defense. After back-to-back fastbreak layups for the Bruins extended the score to 57-44 with seven minutes left in the game, it became clear the Cougars would have to wait at least two more games to even their record.
“We’re still putting pieces together,” Cougars coach Bob Burchard said after the game. “It’d be nice to keep going, but we’re not anywhere near the level, obviously, that you have to be to compete at the level of some of these teams we’re playing.”
Playing against an aggressive team like the Bruins exposed several flaws the Cougars have yet to fix, most noticeably their inside rebounding. The Cougars were out-muscled 49-33 on the boards, and surrendered 18 offensive rebounds that often led to second-chance points and longer possessions for the Bruins.
The only Cougar able to match the Bruins’ intensity was 6-foot-6 forward William Boatwright, who used his muscular frame to pull down nine rebounds in the first half.
But, without the help of his teammates, Boatwright was unable to record a single rebound.
“One-on-five, it’s hard to get rebounds,” a frustrated Boatwright said after the game. “I was stressing to the team to help me out, but it didn’t happen.”
Although the Cougars played the night before, Burchard said it had no effect on the team’s sluggish performance against the Bruins. With the Cougars jumping to a 30-9 lead on Friday, many of the starters rested in the second half.
“I think everybody understood what last (Friday) night was about,” Burchard said. “We were gunning for this game.”
With finals week coming up, the Cougars won’t have the opportunity to begin a new winning streak until Friday. .
“This would have been a huge win for us,” Burchard said. “We’ll worry about finals and we’ll get back and practice hard and try again.”