By Matt Bos, NAIA Media Coordinator
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – (Box Score) – The host team and No. 13 College of the Ozarks was eliminated by unseeded Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.) 78-69 in the first round of the 2015 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship.
The Wolves, now 25-9, used strong shooting from the outside and timely stops on defense to pull away from the Bobcats in front of a packed and raucous crowd at the Keeter Gymnasium Wednesday night. The win is the fourth straight in the opening round for CSU, which won the championship in 2013.
“I thought it was a gutsy performance for us on the defensive end,” CSU Head Coach Drew Diener said. “We knew their motion offense was going to be tough to defend. Our guys kept their composure and answered most of their runs.”
The unseeded Wolves jumped out early on the Bobcats, who finish the season 25-7. CSU led 13-4 in the first five minutes of the game with Tyler Semenas hitting two early 3-pointers to force Ozarks into an early timeout. CSU kept rolling in the first half, hitting 59.3 percent of its shots, including seven 3-pointers as a team before the break.
Down 43-29 at the half, the Bobcats started to chip away after the break and when Derek Daniels hit a shot with jumper with eight minutes to play the host team trailed by only three. CSU’s Tony Smit, who finished with a game-high 24 points, hit one of his four 3-pointers to push the lead back to six with under seven minutes to play.
Ozarks looked to trim the lead again when Ethan Murray caught a home-run pass to go in for a layup, but Semenas got back on defense in a hurry to make a block with 4:40 to play. CSU stole the inbound pass and took control down the stretch for the win.
Four Wolves scored double figures, led by Smit, who was 8-of-13 from the field and 4-of-6 from deep. Smit was one rebound shy of a double-double, grabbing nine rebounds. Semenas added 19 points and seven rebounds, while Chad Mazur and Garrett Borgrud each added 13 points.
CSU shot 27-of-56 from the field and 9-of-19 from behind the 3-point line, while outrebounding the Bobcats 35-29.
Ozarks was led by Cameron Paschke and Daniels with 13 points each, while Murray and Alex Santiago scored 12 and 11 points, respectively. The Bobcats shot 27-of-58 from the field and 7-of-23 from deep.
CSU will take on the winner of Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) and No. 16 Warner Pacific University (Ore.) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Keeter Gymnasium.