Looking to stop a red-hot Iowa Wesleyan squad, the College of the Ozarks Bobcats returned to the hardwood at Keeter Gymnasium Saturday. The Tigers, who lost their first game of the season, but have not lost since, came into Saturday’s contest winners of 16 straight games. The Bobcats knew they would have their hands full, but they were up for the challenge.
Andrew Mitchell started the offense with a pair of threes sandwiched around a Matt Luebbert free throw, and the Bobcats held the early lead. Neither team scorched the nets in the early going and with the clock showing 14:32, the Bobcats held an 11-10 lead. The teams traded baskets with Josh Linehan and Kyle Flavin getting on the board, but IWU scored on consecutive possessions and bumped their lead to 17-13. With 10:55 remaining in the half, Coach Shepherd took a timeout to regroup. The Bobcat offense had stalled out, but the defense was holding the Tigers in place. As time continued to tick off the clock, neither team was able to find the bottom of the net. An IWU free throw finally broke the silence with 7:53 left to play. Another Tiger basket increased the lead, but a Kyle Flavin jumper broke through for the Bobcats. Both defenses continued to hold strong and with 3:32 remaining in the half, a Kyle Flavin three cut the gap to 20-18. The Tigers responded with a basket and a free throw, but the Bobcats continued to attack. A Matt Luebbert basket and a bucket combined with two free throws by Josh Linehan rounded out the scoring, and the Bobcats trailed 29-24 at the break.
The Tigers came out on fire in the opening minutes of the second half and an 8-0 run spelled trouble for the Bobcats. Andrew Mitchell broke through with a basket and Josh Linehan threw down a dunk to provide a spark, but the Tigers continued to apply pressure. The gap continued to grow and with 15:10 left to play, the Tigers held a 42-31 advantage. A pair of Tiger free throws expanded the deficit, but a Tanner Rogers three cut it back to 10. A Josh Linehan free throw cut the gap to single digits while the Bobcat defense continued to hold. An IWU three bumped the advantage to 47-35 and the Bobcats needed a timeout. The Bobcats went cold from the field out of the huddle and the Tigers continued to add to their lead. A 10-0 Tiger run ensued, and the Bobcats were in trouble. Josh Linehan broke the ice with a deep three, but the damage had been done. The Tigers now led 57-38 and the Bobcats were in a deep hole. Another dry spell began for the Bobcats, but the defense continued to stand. Two points for each team was the total output over the next 5:08 and time was running out for a comeback. Andrew Mitchell and Gavin Davis rounded out the Bobcat scoring as the Tigers finished on another run and took the contest 70-42.
Josh Linehan led the Bobcat offense with 12 points and Andrew Mitchell followed with 10. Kyle Flavin contributed nine, Matt Luebbert tacked on six, Tanner Rogers three, and Gavin Davis two.
The Bobcats are back home Friday, January 20 as they host Calvary University and then again on Saturday for the second game of a doubleheader with Ecclesia College. Tipoff Friday is at 7 PM and Saturday at 3 PM.