No. 1 ORU Survives Scare from No. 8 IPFW, 71-67
SIOUX FALLS, S.D.-Just like the final meeting between the two teams in the regular season, made free throws down the stretch and a block with less than a second remaining proved the difference as top-seeded Oral Roberts (27-5, 17-1) survived a scare from IPFW (11-19), winning 71-67 to advance to the semifinals of the 2012 Summit League Tournament.
With plenty of opportunities at the line late in the game, ORU made just enough, despite going 20-32 (62.5 percent) for the game, the second game in a row in which ORU has missed at least 10 free throws, but won.
The Golden Eagles had five players in double figures, led by Warren Niles' 17, 12 of which game from behind the arc as he shot 4-6 from there. Michael Craion had 16 points and six rebounds, while Roderick Pearson had 15 points and hit shots down the stretch with Dominique Morrison out of the game for the final 2:32 to go and ORU down by one. Morrison finished the game with 10 points to keep his double-digit scoring streak alive at 24 games. Steven Roundtree had 11 points for ORU, which shot 46 percent from the field but 41.7 percent from 3 point range (5-12) on the day.
ORU held a 37-31 advantage on the boards, which led to 10 second chance points.
IPFW was led by Frank Gaines who led the Mastodons with 26 points, 19 of which came in the second half as he led IPFW's comeback bid. Antwaun Boyd and Trey McCorkle each chipped in 10 for IPFW, who was eliminated from the tournament with the loss.
For ORU, they move to 13-2 all-time at the Summit League Tournament when playing as the top seed. The 27 victories is also the most in school history as an NCAA Division I program, and tied for the third most in school history at any level.
"As I just told my guys, this time of year you don't always play well but you win and advance," said Coach Scott Sutton. "We are going to forget about this game and move on to the next one. I'm really proud of Rod (Pearson). I thought he hit unbelievable shots. He had to step up when Dominique went out and he did that and showed a lot of toughness. This team is amazing. We haven't always played well but we've won 27 games. They've always found a way to win."
The Golden Eagles could seemingly do no wrong early as they took a quick 9-0 lead in the game. IPFW put together an 8-0 run of their own to close the gap. It wouldn't be until a Joe Edwards jumper with 8:53 to go in the first half that the Mastodons would catch up to ORU, tying the game at 17-17.
Again the Golden Eagles would respond and use a 9-0 spurt, complete with a steal and behind-the-back pass to Niles for the layup, forcing an IPFW timeout as the ORU lead swelled back to 26-17. Able to keep the momentum after a pair of Boyd free throws, the Golden Eagles continued to pull away by as many 13 at 32-19 before IPFW scored the final four points of the first half, making it a 32-23 ORU lead.
IPFW forced the ball inside to start the second half, making its first six shot attempts of the half, including a 3-point play by McCorkle, which cut the ORU lead to seven at 43-36. Another and-one by McCorkle got the Mastodons to within six at 48-42. Seemingly with an answer each time, ORU kept the lead but IPFW kept trimming it as a Gaines jumper made it a five point game.
After a Craion basket, the Mastodons put together an 8-0 run to tie the game at 50-50 midway through the second half.
Neither team could get much separation from that point on, as Gaines completed a 10-2 run to take a 54-52 lead. Down 60-59 and with Morrison on the bench after picking up his fifth foul, five-straight points by Pearson, including his only 3-pointer of the day, put ORU up 64-61 with 1:06 to play. ORU made three-straight tips to the line, and six down the stretch, hitting just one of two each trip until Roundtree drained both with less than second remaining and a two-point ORU lead.
With the victory, ORU earned a berth in the semifinals of the tournament and will play the winner of the game between No. 4 Western Illinois and No. 5 North Dakota State, which will be determined Sunday night as they face off at 6 p.m.