No. 2 seed College of the Ozarks (MO) and No. 3 seed Briar Cliff (IA) both brought their fan sections to their second round matchup in the 2013 NAIA Women’s Division II National Basketball Tournament, raising the noise in the Tyson Events Center. However, only the Briar Cliff fans were happy after their Chargers eliminated the Wildcats 80 to 67.
Briar Cliff easily took down Siena Heights in the first round 94-77 while the Ozarks narrowly escaped an overtime game against Milligan 84-76. The Ozarks were led in their first round game by senior Morgan Smith who outscored all players with 40 points.
“We hit the shots and our defense was pretty solid, especially on Smith. Holding Smith to 12 points was really a team effort,” Briar Cliff head coach Mike Power said.
Ozarks looked to heat Smith up early to help give them the lead, but Briar Cliff was able to keep her cool, only allowing her to 4 first half points. However, the shooting and rebounding the Ozarks Wildcat’s were able to develop helped them have just a little bit more control of the game than Briar Cliff. The Wildcats went 43% from the field and brought in 26 rebounds, but turned the ball over 17 times. The Chargers lacked from the field only shooting 26%, but picked it up from long range making four three pointers. Summer Gordan from Briar Cliff led the team in rebounds with 3, but Kenzie Lauffer of the Ozarks led all players with 6 rebounds. The largest lead in the first half went to Ozarks who were able to stretch the game with a 9 point lead half way through the half. Briar Cliff only led once by a small margin of three points. The first half concluded with a 28-23 Ozarks lead heading into the locker rooms.
“We were not the same team in the first half that we were yesterday and we had a come to Jesus moment in the locker room,” Power said.
Briar Cliff came out into the second half ready to play, outscoring Ozarks 15-9 in the first five minutes. When the Wildcats would start to get closer, the Chargers found ways to score which helped their field goal percentage to 36 percent in the game. The bench stepped up for the Chargers to, outscoring the Wildcat bench 35 to 6. It seemed like everything Briar Cliff would put up, went in or sent them to the free throw line. Turnovers hit Ozarks by losing the ball 24 in the game compared to Briar Cliff’s 14. With under 10 minutes left, Briar Cliff had pulled out to their largest lead yet of 10, going ahead 55-45. However, the 24 fouls that the Chargers committed helped the Wildcats at the line, going 30 for 33. The tables turned even more in Briar Cliff’s favor when Ozarks Smith fouled out with only 12 points, helping the energy raise in the Tyson. In the end, the Chargers prevailed for another day to live in the tournament.
“Second half was awesome, they really outplayed us bad, they had 57 points. We are better defensively than that. The first half we played was not good enough. Too many fouls and not enough rebounding,” Ozarks head coach George Wilson said.
The leading scorer of the game comes from Ozark’s Walker who finished with 25 points and Morgan Smith was the leading rebounder with 10.
“They realized this is the national tournament and if you don’t play with a little fire in your belly, you go home. We really got in the flow second half and got energy which helped the tide change quite a bit for us,” Power said.
This win landed Briar Cliff a spot in the quarterfinals on Saturday against the winner of No. 5 seed Grand View and No. 1 seed Indiana Wesleyan who will play later tonight. This is Briar Cliff’s third appearance in the last four years in the tournament quarterfinals.
“It’s so cliché but this time of the year, you are who you are and that’s all we can be,” Power said.