SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- No. 1-seed College of the Ozarks (Mo.) was able to control the paint in a 59-50 victory over No. 5-seed Indiana Wesleyan University in the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship Sweet 16 in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Bobcats avenged their loss of two years ago to the Wildcats in the 2007 National Championship game as IWU earned the title to cap off a 38-0 season.
Indiana Wesleyan (24-10) was able to neutralize Ozarks' leading scorer, senior guard Kayli Combs, to just nine points on 3-of-15 shooting. But the Ozarks' second leading scorer in Lindsy Murray, and main post threat, tallied a game-high 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting.
IWU sophomore forward Elaine Hessel was nearly able to match Murray with 23 points as she was 9-of-12 from the floor. Murray and Hessel were the only players to score double figures.
The Indiana Wesleyan defense was able to harass Ozarks much of the game, including the first six minutes as Ozarks was held scoreless. Before the first Ozarks score, a 3-pointer to tie the game with 13:52 left in the half, Ozarks had missed their first five field goals and committed seven turnovers.
Once the Bobcats finally scored they were able to score on four of five possessions in the next 2:19 to capture a 10-7 lead.
The first half featured five ties and five lead changes with no team able to earn a lead greater than four until the very end of the half. The score was tied 23-23 when the Bobcats were able to stretch a lead.
Ozarks (28-5) ended the opening period on a 10-1 run to take the lead and momentum into half. C of O led 33-24 at the break.
Ozarks quickly gained their first double digit lead of the day 23 seconds into the second half. But Indiana Wesleyan responded to close the gap to five points at 35-30 less than two minutes later as three different Wildcats scored.
On different occasions Indiana Wesleyan trimmed the deficit to four points, the latest coming at 39-35 with 11:50 to play.
The Bobcats reeled off six unanswered points to recapture their double figure lead at 45-35. Indiana Wesleyan responded once again with four straight points to bring the game within six as 8:10 remained.
In a second half of runs, Ozarks volleyed with six consecutive points to gain their largest lead of the contest at 51-39 and 5:18 on the clock. Ozarks maintained a 12 point advantage at 54-42 with 3:36 remaining, but Indiana Wesleyan attempted one last comeback.
A basket and a foul for freshman guard Rachel Steinbarger brought the deficit back to single digits. Following a defensive rebound by Steinbarger, Hessel scored in the paint for a 54-47 game. Another IWU defensive stop followed by Hessel hitting on 1-of-2 free throws closed the gap to 54-48 as 1:20 was left on the clock.
Indiana Wesleyan was forced to foul but Ozarks was able to connect on 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to ice the game and advance to the Elite Eight.
The Wildcats defense kept Indiana Wesleyan close throughout as Ozarks shot 41.7-percent (20 of 48) and 3-of-15 (20.0-percent) from long range. The Bobcats turned the ball over 21 times and the Wildcats had 12 steals.
But Indiana Wesleyan was unable to capitalize on their defensive pressure as IWU was held to 35.2-percent (19 of 54) and hit on just 10-of-17 (58.8-percent) from the charity stripe. Ozarks won the battle on the boards by a 43-30 margin.
Indiana Wesleyan's season comes to a close at 24-10 with the seventh consecutive trip to the NAIA National Championship.