The College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats returned to the friendly confines of Keeter Gymnasium Saturday and were looking to avenge an earlier three-point loss to the Tigers of Iowa Wesleyan University. The two teams squared off in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa on December 3, and the Tigers squeezed out a 68-65 win over the Lady Bobcats.
Looking to maintain their unblemished record at “The K”, the Lady Bobcats looked to have an uphill battle form the opening tip. Shooting just 20% in the opening frame, the Lady Cats found themselves in an early hole. Iowa Wesleyan jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead, with the only Lady Cat points coming from a Kayley Frank jumper at the 8:10 mark. The C of O defense clamped down and tamed the Tiger offense to close out the quarter but things were looking rough. Frank added two more baskets and Katie Mayes drained a free throw to send the game to the quarter break with the Lady Cats trailing 14-7.
A Katie Mayes three opened the second quarter scoring and it appeared the Lady Cats were back on track. The Tigers had a different perspective however, and a 7-0 outburst put them on top 21-10 with 7:00 remaining in the half. The Lady Cats needed to respond, and Taylor Rush provided the answer. With 6:27 left in the half, Rush drained a deep three and was fouled. Her free throw to complete the four-point play cut the gap to 21-14 and the Lady Cats were hoping to swing the momentum. The Tigers quickly bounced back with a pair of threes of their own and Coach Mullis took a timeout to regroup. Now trailing 27-14, the Lady Cats needed a spark. Jordan Wersinger connected on a pair of free throws and a jumper out of the huddle, but IWU continued their attack. Annie Noah and Wersinger combined for an 8-2 run to close out the half and the Lady Cats trailed 34-26 headed to the intermission.
The Tigers put the first two points on the board to start the third quarter, but the Lady Cats were determined to claw their way back into contention. Hopefully having their shooting woes behind them, the C of O began to chip away at the lead. Frank, Wersinger, and Benefield started the comeback and with 2:24 gone from the clock, the gap had been reduced to 39-34. A pair of free throws was all the offence the Tigers could muster, and an Annie Noah basket was followed by back-to-back threes from Frank and Wersinger to give the Lady Cats their first lead. Benefield and Frank tacked on a basket each before IWU could get a timeout on the books and the Lady Cats had put together a 15-2 run over a 5:00 stretch. A pair of Tiger Free throws broke the streak, but the Lady Cats had captured the momentum, and the lead. Wersinger, Frank, and Mayes rounded out the third quarter scoring and a 29-15 quarter was in the books.
Now leading 53-49, the Lady Cats had bounced back from a rough first half and had things going their way. C of O wasted no time establishing their fourth quarter momentum. Katie Mayes drained a deep three and Kayley Frank followed with a pair of free throws. The Tigers answered with a pair of free throws of their own, but a Jordan Wersinger basket gave the Lady Cats their largest lead, 62-51. The Tigers attempted to challenge but the Lady Cats repeatedly held them at bay. IWU refused to give in however, and slowly began to make progress. Chipping away at the lead, things began to get interesting. With just 2:01 remaining, Brielle Baker hit a three to cut the lead to 66-64. Jordan Wersinger connected on a free throw and the defensive battle was on. Neither team could score as the clock was winding down. The Tigers began to foul with hopes that the Lady Cats could not hit the shots from the charity stripe. Taylor Rush and Jordan Wersinger sank all four of their chances down the stretch and the Lady Cats secured the 71-66 win.
Jordan Wersinger led all scorers with 26 points and teammate Kayley Frank followed with 22. Katie Mayes contributed nine points, Taylor Rush tacked on six, and Annie Noah had four points and continued to dominate the glass with 12 rebounds. Blythe Benefield added four points to round out the Lady Cats scoring.
The Lady Cats will return to Keeter Gymnasium this Saturday, January 21, when they host the first part of a men’s and women’s doubleheader with Ecclesia College. The Lady Cats will tipoff at 1 PM.