The NAIA DII No. 25 ranked College of the Ozarks Bobcats and visiting Evangel University Crusaders took to the court this evening in their final matchup of the season, with the Bobcats claiming the victory, 89-78.
The first ten minutes saw the Bobcats and Crusaders trade turnovers, fouls, and missed shots (25% FG for C of O, and 27% for Evangel), leading to a paltry 10-9 Bobcat advantage at midpoint of the first half. A majority of the crowd had been intentionally silent until the Bobcats scored their 10th point and then erupted, spurring back-to-back three-point baskets by Bobcats Nathan Reid and Ethan Murray. Within minutes, the Bobcats had a ten-point lead and didn’t look back. The half closed with Ozarks leading 42-26 on double-digit scoring by Ethan Murray (12) and Alex Santiago (10), aided by Derek Daniels’ 7 rebounds.
The two teams matched up evenly in the early minutes of the second half, and the Bobcats held a 17 point lead with 6:13 remaining (66-49). Evangel, however, nibbled away at the lead, bringing the point differential to within as little as 8 at the 26 second mark. Despite numerous fouls by Evangel while pressing late in the game, the Bobcats maintained a 73% free throw shooting percentage, sinking 38 of 52 on the night, and capturing the win.
Senior guard Alex Santiago led the Bobcats with 25 points, shooting 5-13 in field goals and draining 14 of his 19 free throws, while adding three steals. Also posting double digits for the Bobcats were Ethan Murray (18), Cameron Paschke (12), and Pete Leonard (12). Derek Daniels and Nathan Reid contributed eight rebounds each.
Tonight’s victory also sealed the Bobcats & Lady Bobcats’ acquisition of the Rib Crib Highway 65 Traveling Trophy, as College of the Ozarks defeated Evangel in all four competitions this season. The win brings the Bobcats’ record to 7-3, while the Crusaders’ fall to 4-4. The Bobcats will head to Oklahoma to face Mid-America Christian on Thursday evening.