College of the Ozarks Bobcats closed out their 2019 season Wednesday afternoon, when they were defeated by No. 1 seed Morningside College, 99-58, in the first round of the NAIA DII Men’s Basketball National Championship in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The Bobcats enter the tournament as the No. 8 seed in their bracket, qualifying for the event as the Runner-up of the A.I.I. Conference Championship.
C of O opened the game with a splash, as senior guard Brandt Cochran drained two three-pointers to give the Bobcats a quick 6-0 lead. Morningside would come back to tie the score at 12 and subsequently take a 16-14 lead. Junior Treydon Rackley responded with a trey to give the Cats another lead, but Bobcat miscues and missed shots resulted in the Mustangs taking the lead, as they pummeled the paint and posted a 12-point advantage by the close of the half, 42-30.
Cochran led all scorers in the half with 14, most of which were from the field, but the Mustangs inflicted their damage inside, outscoring the Bobcats 30-8 in the paint and out-rebounding C of O, 20-12.
The Mustangs returned to the court and opened with an 8-0 run to push their lead to 20 before the Bobcats, sparked by an Ayden Stone rebound a put-back of a missed three-pointer, posted a 10-0 run of their own. The scoring flurry pulled C of O to within 12 points at 40-52. However, that was as close as the Bobcats would come the remainder of the half. Foul trouble for Stone and Trent McBride, combined with the Mustangs’ relentless pressure and solid presence inside, saw the gap widen until Morningside collected the 99-58 victory.
For the game, the Mustangs outscored the Bobcats 49-10 in the paint and posted a 48-26 advantage on the boards.
Bobcat stat leaders featured Cochran, who led all scorers with 25 points, going 10-22 from the field, including five triples, and a team-leading four steals. Rackley and Stone pulled down five rebounds apiece, and Andrew Mitchell blocked two shots. Rackley also scored in double figures with 13 points.
Though the loss is hard to take, the Bobcats can look back and see they persevered well this season. Despite losing three players early in the year to season-ending injuries and infusing seven freshmen to their 11-member squad, the team’s tenacity to fight their way through the season resulted in handing head coach Steve Shepherd his eighth-consecutive and 15th-career 20-win season.
Senior Brandt Cochran played his final game for the Bobcats on this date. Cochran posted a strong season that included scoring 645 points with 106 three-point shots made, 34 steals, and 167 assists. For his career, Cochran tallied 1,784 points, shooting at a 46% clip, drained 310 treys, dished 423 assists, hauled in 390 rebounds, and swiped 138 steals. He also closed out the season as the Bobcats’ A.I.I. and NAIA Champion of Character awardee.
Congratulations to the Bobcats on their many successes of the season.