DANVILLE, Illinois – By halftime of the Columbus State – Essex County first round game on Tuesday, the Cougars had led by as many as eleven points and had hit eight three-pointers. With a halftime score of 44-39 and Kenneth Moore's 4-for-5 shooting from behind the arc, the Cougars looked like they just needed to clean up their shooting at the foul line (4-for-19). Unfortunately, Columbus State lost their momentum, resulting in a devastating 92-69 loss. This was the Cougars (24-7) toughest defeat all season, with a deficit of 23 points. Their previous highest loss was 11 points back in October.
Essex County came out hard in the second half, intensifying their defense, eventually holding the Cougars to an overall 35.7 shooting percentage from the field while shooting 51.7 percent. Once the threes stopped falling, the Cougars didn't have an answer for Essex County's offense and the Wolverines were winning the battle at the free throw line. Columbus State finished 28 percent at the charity stripe, while Essex shot 74.2 percent. The Cougars typically average between 65-70 percent at the foul line.
"We shot terribly from the foul line," lamented Coach Ed Thompson. "Our worst performance at the line all season."
Three Cougars scored in double-figures, led by Moore with a game-high 16 points. Rodney Willis and Chris Byrd each recorded 10 points. Nearly missing a double-double was Nic Williams with nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Williams also had a team-high four assists.
Other contributors were Robert Caldwell (7), Patrick Ngene-Igwe (6), John Montgomery (4), Donte Smith (3), and Lamarr Barnes (2). Ngene-Igwe and Barnes each grabbed six rebounds, while Willis and Moore snatched four.
"It's the tale of the two halves," said Coach Thompson. "We had so much energy in the first and no energy in the second whereas they came out energetic and aggressive."
Columbus State still has a shot at a top 10 finish at the NJCAA DII tournament. The men's basketball team will take on Dakota County Tech (Minn) on Wednesday, March 16 @ 4:00PM ET/3:00PM CT.