SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) For the second time in as many days a No. 7 seed upended a No. 2 seed, as No 7 College of the Ozarks (Mo.) downed No. 2 Saint Xavier (Ill.), 68-43, in the first round of the 2014 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by State Farm on Thursday at the Tyson Events Center. The Bobcats, who had lost three of their last five games entering the event, advance to play the winner of No. 3 Mayville State (N.D.) and No. 6 Cornerstone (Mich.) at 12 p.m. on Friday.
College of the Ozarks entered the championship as one of the NAIA’s most experienced teams, with 20 trips in the 23-year history of the event. With the win, the Bobcats advance to at least the second round for the 11th-straight year, with their last first round loss coming in 2003 against Grand View (Iowa), 74-72.
Freshman guard Alice Heinzler led all scorers with 18 points in the game. The Republic, Mo., native has scored in double-digits 24 times this season, including a season-best 28 points against fellow national championship qualifier Oklahoma Wesleyan in the semifinals of the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
Joining Heinzler in double figures for the Bobcats was senior Emily Walker with 13 points. Junior Kayla Kepler led the team with 12 rebounds in the effort.
Defensively, the Bobcats played arguably one of their best defensive games of the season, holding Saint Xavier to season lows in field goals made (17) and shooting percentage (23.9 percent).
College of the Ozarks opened the game with a 10-4 run and never looked back from that point, building its lead to as many as 20 points on a layup by Emily Walker off an assist by Heinzler with two seconds remaining in the first half. Saint Xavier never got its offense going in the period, converting only 8-of-33 attempts from the floor, including a 1-for-6 effort from 3-point range.
The Bobcats kept their foot on the gas in the second half, allowing the Cougars to get no closer than 14 points.
As a team, College of the Ozarks shot 38.7 percent (24-for-62) from the field and was 16-for-20 (80.0 percent) at the free throw line. The Bobcats outscored Saint Xavier, 15-9, off turnovers and, 36-22, in the paint.
Saint Xavier, which was making its second trip to the NAIA Division II National Championship, was led in scoring by Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year Morgan Stuut. The junior forward had 14 points, while also grabbing 13 rebounds, en route to her 25th double-double of the season.
The Cougars end the year with a 27-6 record.