After a thrilling come from behind, overtime finish a week earlier against Kansas Christian College, the College of the Ozarks Bobcats welcomed the Fightin’ Indians of Haskell Indian Nations University to Keeter Gymnasium. The Saturday afternoon contest featured familiar foes from many previous conference matchups.
The Indians jumped out to the early lead with a three on their first possession of the game, but the Bobcats responded with a Kyle Flavin three. The two teams traded baskets in the early going with Haskell holding the slight advantage. With the score knotted at 5-5, a pair of Haskell threes forced a quick Bobcat timeout. Another Flavin three out of the huddle cut the deficit to 11-8, but Haskell continued to apply pressure. A Garrett Simmerman basket cut into the Haskell lead and a pair of Josh Linehan free throws brought the Cats to within one, 13-12. After a pair of Indian free throws, Andrew Mitchell drained his first shot beyond the arc and the score was tied, with 11:33 remaining. Two possessions later, Mitchell did it again from deep and the Bobcats held their first lead. Haskell was not phased and quickly hit another three to tie the score again. The tug of war was on as the teams traded baskets and defensive stops. Matt Luebbert broke into the scoring column to force another tie and Tanner Rogers drained a three to put the Cats back on top. Haskell quickly answered and with 7:35 remaining in the half, the score was even, 23-23. The teams battled back and forth, with neither able to establish a run. With just over five minutes remaining, the Cats hit a cold spell from the floor and the Indians were able to capitalize. A pair of baskets, a three, and a pair of free throws put Haskell up 35-27 and the Bobcats needed to break their offensive silence. The basket continued to be elusive, and the Bobcat defense was tasked with keeping things close. A Cainen Mar steal and basket broke through for the Bobcats with :22 remaining, and the defense had held the Indians to a single basket over the final stretch. As the teams headed to the intermission, the Bobcats trailed the Indians 37-29.
Josh Linehan opened the second half scoring with a pair of Bobcat free throws on the opening possession. Haskell quickly responded and the Bobcat cold spell continued. A Josh Linehan drive, and reverse layup cut the gap back to eight with 17:25 left to play, but the Bobcats needed a run. Matt Luebbert scored and drew the foul off a Josh Linehan pass, but was unable to get the free throw to fall. Haskell continued to apply pressure and the Bobcats struggled to make up ground. Coach Shepherd took a timeout with 16:07 remaining, and the Bobcats trailing 44-35. Kyle Flavin scored out of the huddle and the Bobcats needed stops. Just as prescribed, the Cats put together a pair of stops and another Flavin basket cut the deficit to five, 44-39. Another stop and a Garrett Simmerman traditional three-point play had the Bobcats in business and trailing 44-42, with 13:14 remaining. One more stop and a Flavin jumper tied the score. A Tanner Rogers three at the 11:03 mark gave the Bobcats their first lead since the first half and capped off a 12-0 Bobcat run. Haskell broke through on the next possession and immediately put together a 7-0 run to regain the advantage, 51-47. A Bobcat timeout with 8:15 left to play gave C of O a chance to regroup. Haskell took a timeout of their own shortly after and greeted the Bobcats with three out of the huddle. Another Haskell basket and a repeat of the Bobcat cold spell led to a 14-0 Indian run and a 58-47 deficit. With 5:59 remaining, the Bobcats needed to quickly turn the tide. A Kyle Flavin basket at the 5:06 mark broke the silence, but there was still much work to be done. The Indians crashed the offensive boards, and their extra chances had the Bobcats in a hole. With time running down, things did not look good for the C of O. Another Haskell three increased the deficit to 63-51 with 2:46 remaining. Josh Linehan scored to cut the gap to 63-53 and Haskell took another timeout. A Flavin basket cut the gap to 64-55 with 1:35 remaining and the Bobcats began forcing the Indians to make free throws. With less than stellar shooting from the charity stripe, a Flavin three made it a two-possession game, 64-58, with 1:17 left on the clock. The big bucket was elusive for the Bobcats and as time ran down, the Indians scored and hit a pair of free throws to seal the 67-57 win.
Kyle Flavin led all scorers with 21 points. Matt Luebbert and Josh Linehan followed with eight points each and Tanner Rogers, Andrew Mitchell, and Garrett Simmermen each contributed six. Cainen Mar rounded out the Bobcat scoring with two points.
The Bobcats will begin a three-game road stint at Baptist Bible College, February 11, Kansas Christian College, February 14, and Ecclesia College, February 18. The Bobcats will wrap up the regular season at home on February 25 when they host Baptist Bible College.