After a tough stretch of road games, the Bobcats were glad to be back on their home court in Keeter Gymnasium Tuesday night. The Bobcats squared off against an athletic and talented Arkansas Baptist team that had handed them a 90-62 loss in Little Rock on January 29. Looking at the results of the earlier meeting, it would have been easy to think the Bobcats were outmatched in this contest. The Bobcats on the other hand, had moved past the earlier loss and they were prepared for the rematch.
The game appeared to be a shootout from the opening tip as the two teams traded threes to start the game. Five of the first six baskets were from beyond the arc and it seemed that neither team could miss. With 4:12 off the clock, Blaine Cline nailed a pair of free throws to put the Bobcats up 12-9. A traditional three-point play by Isayah West tied the score at 12-12 and that started a Buffalo run of 10 unanswered points and put the Bobcats in a 19-12 hole. It looked as though Arkansas Baptist was set to pull away, but a Josh Linehan basket broke the streak and cut the deficit to five. Another 5-2 stretch by Arkansas Baptist increased the gap to 24-16 and the Bobcats needed a timeout to regroup. Matt Luebbert scored, and Garrett Simmerman sank a three ball out of the huddle to cut the deficit to three with 9:17 remaining in the half. Moments later, a Josh Linehan three tied the score at 27 and the tug of war was on. Neither team was willing to give up ground and the teams played to a 33-33 tie with 3:32 left to play in the half. Arkansas Baptist was able to create a little space as time ran down in the half and the Bobcats trailed 39-35 at the break.
The teams picked up right where they had left off as the second half began. Arkansas Baptist was able to slowly build their lead, but the Bobcats continued to battle. A Blaine Cline jumper with 15:20 remaining cut the gap to 49-43, but the Bobcats couldn’t seem to get over the hump. Solid Bobcat defense led to a couple of stops and Andrew Mitchell knocked down a three to get the Bobcats within three, 49-46. Arkansas Baptist then took a timeout to try and break the Bobcat momentum. The timeout was ineffective, and Josh Linehan and Garrett Simmerman combined to cut the gap to one, 51-50. The Bobcats continued to challenge but each time, Arkansas Baptist responded. The tug of war continued with Arkansas Baptist maintaining a slight advantage. Point for point the Bobcats kept pace but could not find a way to overtake the Buffalo. A Blaine Cline drive in the lane for a short jumper cut the lead to one, 67-66 and there was a feel that the momentum was shifting. Arkansas Baptist took a timeout, but Cline scored a traditional three-point play on the next Bobcat possession and C of O had their first lead since early in the contest. Throughout the second half, it felt as though the Bobcats just needed to find a way to take the lead in order to record the win. With the lead now on the side of the home team, The Bobcats needed to make plays and maintain composure. They had battled through the game and time would tell if their effort would pay off. Point after point the two teams traded jabs and the Bobcats continued to hold their slim advantage. Controlling the tempo and scoring when needed, the Bobcats were in control and Arkansas Baptist was on the ropes. Things got interesting when Isayah West connected on two free throws with :59 remaining and the score sitting at 76-75, Bobcats. The Bobcats had possession of the ball and simply needed to protect it. Arkansas Baptist was forced to foul as time ran down and Blaine Cline connected on one of two free throws. The second free throw rattled out and the win was sealed on a Garrett Simmerman rebound and putback to give the Bobcats a four-point advantage with just five seconds remaining. The final shot attempt by Arkansas Baptist fell short and the Bobcats secured the 79-75 win.
The Bobcats continued their string of hot shooting as they shot 52.5% from the field and 47.4% from three-point land. They also won the rebounding edge 37-33 and limited turnovers to four in the second half to work their way to the win.
The Bobcats had four score in double figures, with Blaine Cline leading the way with 22, Josh Linehan scored 16, Andrew Mitchell poured in 12, and Matt Luebbert chipped in 10. Garrett Simmerman and Tanner Rogers each added seven, and Kyle Flavin tacked on five.
The Bobcats will be back in action Saturday, February 12 when they host Baptist Bible College in a 3:00 start.