SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) Fueled by a ruckus student section, seventh-seeded College of the Ozarks (Mo.) recorded its third-straight upset, downing No. 1 Northwestern (Iowa), 90-69, in quarterfinal action of the 2014 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by State Farm. The Bobcats are the lowest seed to reach the semifinals since the current format was established in 2003.
College of the Ozarks and Northwestern had previously met four times at the national championship, with the Red Raiders owning a 4-1 record in those contests, including a pair of victories in the banner game.
The Bobcats set a new NAIA championship record with 40 free throws in the contest. Briar Cliff (Iowa) was the previous record holder, converting 38-of-51 attempts against Holy Family (Pa.) in 1997.
Senior guard Emily Walker, who entered the quarterfinals averaging only 8.5 points per game at this year’s national championship, exploded for 22 points. The Nixa, Mo., native connected on only three field goals, but was 15-for-16 at the charity stripe.
Joining Walker in double-digits was freshman guard Alice Heinzler with 21 points, freshman guard Jeana Raper with 16 points and junior guard Kayla Kepler with 15 points
Northwestern stormed to a 17-7 lead five minutes into the first half, capped by a pair of free throws by Mogan Vandersloot. The Bobcats, who opened the period with only two field goals over the course of the opening five minutes, came alive, connecting on 7-of-12 (58.3 percent) 3-point attempts.
College of the Ozarks took its first lead, 30-29, since the opening minute on a two-pointer by Hannah Harman with 5:21 left in the first half. The Bobcats closed the half on a 9-2 run en route to a 44-34 lead at the break.
Northwestern struggled offensively in the opening stanza, converting only 27.8 percent (10-for-36) of its shots – 15.9 percent lower than its third-ranked season average of 47.3 percent.
Heinzler and Raper both impressed during the opening 20 minutes, combining for 27 points and all seven of College of the Ozark’s 3-pointers.
Aided by free throws, College of the Ozarks maintained a double figure advantage the entire second half, pushing its lead out to as many as 22 points in the 21-point win.
Overall, the Bobcats shot 40.8 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from 3-point range and 87.0 percent at the free throw line. Northwestern was limited to 31.9 percent shooting, including a 4-for-17 clip from beyond the arch.
Senior guard Alli Engebretson led the Red Raiders with a game-high 26 points
The margin of defeat is the largest championship history for Northwestern, which has previously reached the at least the semifinals in six-straight seasons.
The Bobcats will face the winner of No. 2 Hastings (Neb.) and No. 1 Davenport (Mich.) Monday at 8 p.m. CDT. That semifinal contest will be broadcast live on ESPN3.