Unseeded College of the Ozarks is basically playing with house money. As the host of this year’s NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship, they get an invite into the tourney and they are already making noise with their win over #16 University of Sioux Falls 66-58 in the first round at the Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, MO.

The first half was very close as neither team mounted more than a four-point lead. The half featured six ties and 10 lead changes, including five over the last four minutes. Both teams shot well as the host Bobcats made 52% of their field goal attempts and USF shooting 48%.

An 8-4 Ozarks run put the hosts up 38-35 at the start of the second half. They extended the lead to 10 (50-40) and opened up their largest lead of the game (57-45) with eight minutes to go. USF stormed back and went on a 10-0, sparked by a pair of three-pointers by Jacob Sittig, to cut the lead down to two, 57-55, with under five minutes to play. Three free throws by Ozarks pushed the lead back to five just moments later and USF did not get any closer than three the rest of the way.

Ozarks was led by Mike Wiebe who scored a game-high 31 points, going 11-for-22 from the floor. The sophomore added seven rebounds and went 9-for-12 from the foul line. Jared Howerton was the only other Bobcats player in double figures with 12 and also led the team with nine rebounds. Ozarks overcame a 2-for-11 performance from beyond the arc, using some outstanding defense that held USF to 29% shooting in the second half.

College of the Ozarks returns to the second round for the fifth time in six years, losing in the opening round only in 2010. The Bobcats will play top-seeded Walsh on Friday night at 7:30pm. The 32-team, single elimination tournament concludes March 15, 2011.

Game recap, provided by NAIA.org