The cold winter air seemingly made its way into the gym Saturday on the campus of Lincoln Christian University. The College of the Ozarks Bobcats were in town to face the LCU Red Lions and defense was the prevailing theme of the night. Both teams struggled from the field throughout the game but it was eventually the Red Lions who found the hot streak and came away with the win, 51-48.
Playing their third road game in five days to start the 2021 season, the Bobcats found themselves in a defensive battle from the opening tip. With two minutes gone in the first half, the score was still knotted at zero. Traydon Rackley hit the first basket of the game to give the Bobcats an early lead. The score remained 2-0 until the 16:27 mark when Lincoln Christian’s Dominic Williams put the Red Lions on the board. The Bobcats were able to shake free and go on a 9-2 run with a trio of baskets by Ayden Stone and a three by Josh Linehan but the Red Lions answered with a run of their own. With 8:34 left in the half, LCU had fought back to within one, 12-11. While not able to pull away, the Bobcats were able to maintain a slim lead through the rest of the half and went into the locker room up 23-19. Both teams had shot a cold 30% from the field and neither team was able to capitalize on the scoring drought of their opponent. Bobcat sophomore, Ayden Stone had provided some stability, scoring 10 of the 23 points at the break.
The second half was more of the same as neither team could get the offense rolling. A 4-0 run for the Red Lions to start the half knotted the score at 23. The Bobcats were able to jump back on top with a Treydon Rackley two but solving the shooting woes just was not to be. The Bobcats had to rely on solid defense and rebounding to keep the Red Lions in check throughout the half. With 13:08 on the clock, the Bobcats were able to extend the lead to five, 34-29, with a basket by Josh Linehan. The Bobcats continued to keep the defensive pressure on the Red Lions and maintained a solid rebounding advantage. Slowly the Bobcats were able to build on the lead and with 5:10 left in the game, had an 11 point advantage, 46-35. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the cold shooting got colder and the Red Lions started getting red hot. With a combination of baskets inside and some threes, the Red Lions put together a run that the Bobcats struggled to answer. Shots just would not fall and the Red Lions had found an offensive groove from inside and out. Over the next four minutes, LCU had put together an 11-2 run and tied the game at 48. As time ran down the Bobcats had a couple of shots to take the lead but could not get them to fall. With three seconds remaining in the game, Red Lion guard AJ Field launched a three from deep on the right side that found nothing but net. The Bobcats were able to get a three point attempt at the buzzer but it drew iron and the LCU Red Lions had escaped with a three point win, 51-48.
“We battled the whole way.” Stated Coach Steve Shepherd. “We didn’t shoot well but I was proud of our competitiveness. We just didn’t finish the game the way you need to in order to win. We will learn from this and it will make us better down the road.”
Ayden Stone and Treydon Rackley finished with 16 each for the Bobcats. Josh Linehan added 9, Tanner Diaz – 4, and Matt Luebbert – 3. The Bobcats outrebounded the Red Lions 44-31 but the 31% shooting and difficult night beyond the arc was too much for the Bobcats to overcome.
The Bobcats will have several days off before heading to Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma to face the Warriors on February 13th.