By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
When you’re the favorite in the first round of a tournament, the objective is to move to the next round while keeping the team as fresh as possible.
The Ozark Christian College Ambassadors men’s basketball team accompished that mission.
Ozark defeated Nebraska Christian 73-55 in the first round of the MCCC Tournament on Thursday night at Ambassadors Gymnasium. The Ambassadors advance to face Barclay in the second round at 7:30 tonight.
“We did what we needed to do to win tonight,” Ozark coach Chris Lahm said. “In a three-game tournament, you just got to win the first-round game and get ready to play after that. We didn’t want to give anyone too many minutes.”
The Ambassadors (24-6) jumped out to a 23-5 lead by the 11:38 mark of the first half behind 11 points from guard Cameron Woodring.
Woodring, a 5-11 freshman from Fort Scott, Kan., led all scorers with 16 points as he was 7-for-9 from the field and 2-for-2 on 3-pointers.
“He’s just a phenomenal shooter,” Lahm said. “And he has great shot selection.”
Zac Hill, sophomore out of Nixa, recorded 15 points and nine rebounds. Kyle Wicklund, a 6-6 senior post from Carthage, registered 11 points and seven rebounds in limited minutes.
Nebraska Christian (6-21) cut Ozark’s lead to 30-20 at the 4:39 mark of the first half, and the Ambassadors led only 37-26 at halftime.
In the second half, OCC quickly stretched the lead back to 52-31 with 11:50 left as Woodring led the way with five points during the run.
The Ambassadors shot 53.1 percent from the field compared to 38.9 percent for Nebraska Christian, which suited up only six players.
Marquise Tatum-Youngblood led Nebraska Christian with 11 points. Kendrick Moore and Jhvanny Fermin scored 10 points each.
Nebraska Christian will face Calvary (5-14) in a consolation game at 12:30 p.m. today.
Ozark turns its attention toward Barclay, which defeated Calvary 81-74 in overtime on Thursday.
The Ambassadors split with Barclay (16-7) during the season, winning at home and losing on the road.
“If we’re going to accomplish what we want to accomplish, we better come ready to play,” Lahm said.