March 14, 2011

College of the Ozarks Returns to the Semifinals

C of O returns to semifinalsPOINT LOOKOUT, MO - College of the Ozarks (Mo.) earns the third spot in Monday's semifinal round as they upset #9 IndianaWesleyan 68-64 in the quarterfinals of the 2011 NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship. The Bobcats advance to play in their fourth semifinals where they are a perfect 3-0 heading into the Monday's game. The 2011 event is being held at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks (Mo.).

The game was tied five times in the first eight minutes until Wildcats sophomore Patrick Hopkins scored on back-to-back baskets to end a 7-2 run and take a 19-14 lead. Ozarks guards Sheldon Shaver knocked down two three-pointers to give his team a 20-19 advantage but Indiana Wesleyan answered with the next seven points to open up a 26-20 lead. An IWU basket by Aaron Martin just before the halftime buzzer put the Wildcats up 32-26.

Both teams began the second half with a three-pointer to put the score at 35-29 but then Jared Howerton knocked down consecutive three-pointers which started a 9-0- run to give the Bobcats their first lead since the opening minutes. A three-point play by Hopkins at the 12-minute mark put IWU up one (43-42) but it would be their last lead of the game. Ozarks outscored IWU 9-3, getting baskets from four different players, over a four minute stretch and the Bobcats made just enough free throws down the stretch to preserve their fourth trip to the semifinals.

After struggling from the field in the first half (36%), Ozarks bounced back with 54% in the second and shot 45% for the game. Howerton led the Bobcats with 16 points while Shaver added 11. Both players did their damage from beyond the arc, making three three-pointers each. Nathan Peterson added 10 points and four rebounds despite battling foul problems all game. Ozarks held a 33-25 advantage on the boards.

Indiana Wesleyan suffered its fourth straight loss in the quarterfinals and shot 46% for the game. Hopkins led the Wildcats with 21 points, going 8-for-12 from the field but just 5-for-13 from the free-throw line. Jordan Weidner scored 12 points while Derrick Troyer chipped in11. Indiana Wesleyan ends the season with a 28-8 record.

Ozarks completes the top half of the semifinal bracket and will play defending champion St. Francis (Ind.) on Monday, March 14 at 6:00 p.m. The 32-team, single elimination tournament concludes March 15, 2011. For more information about the National Championship, click here