Late Drought Ends No. 1 Golden Eagles Tournament with 54-53 Loss to No. 4 WIU
SIOUX FALLS, S.D.-The last field goal for No. 1 Oral Roberts (27-6) came at the 7:21 mark in the second half, and a shot with 26 seconds left in the game gave No. 4 Western Illinois (18-13) the lead and the 54-53 victory in the 2012 Summit League semifinals.
Despite the scoring slump, ORU still held a lead in the final minute of the game thanks to 23 points from Dominique Morrison as he hit nine of his 12 shots, including nine of 10 from inside the arc. Warren Niles had 11 points for ORU, while Michael Craion had a game-high 11 rebounds, as ORU out-rebounded the Leathernecks 33-20. It was the 25th straight game in which Morrison has scored at least 10 points and his 16th 20-point game of the season. It was also the fifth game in a row in which both Morrison and Niles have reached double figures.
In the process, Morrison also passed Caleb Green (639) and Mark Acres (646) for the seventh most points in a single season in ORU history with 661 points.
Terell Parks had 14 points and eight rebounds to lead WIU, while Ceola Clark had 11 points. ORU had 14 turnovers, including two late, that led to a 21-13 advantage for WIU in points off turnovers.
The loss was just the second in the last 22 games for ORU dating back to a December 18 victory over Xavier, and makes Western Illinois' first victory over ORU in the Summit League Tournament.
"Obviously a devastating loss for us," said Coach Scott Sutton. "Give Western (Illinois) a lot of credit, I thought their kids battled and made some plays down the stretch. If you score four points in the last eight minutes of a game you don't deserve to win. It's heartbreaking for a team who has done so much this year with 27 wins and a regular season title. It's disappointing that they won't be able to play tomorrow."
The game couldn't have started much better for the Golden Eagles as they jumped out to a 5-0 lead after a Damen Bell-Holter 3-pointer and a block by Craion led to a Roderick Pearson layup. Western Illinois answered back in a big way with a 12-0 run as they hit all three of their 3-point attempts to start the game.
Morrison was able to stop the bleeding, leading ORU on a 6-0 run to pull within a point at 12-11, scoring all six points for the Golden Eagles, including two from the free throw line after a technical foul call. Morrison continued to lead the way as he scored 11 points in the first 13 minutes of the game, giving the Golden Eagles the lead back at 20-18 after another 8-2 spurt.
After the hot start from behind the arc, it wouldn't be until the 3:06 mark that WIU would hit another as they cut a six-point ORU lead down to three at 26-23 after Clark's third trey of the game. The 3-pointer would spark the final run of the first half as the Leathernecks scored the last seven points of the first half to turn a 26-20 ORU lead into a 27-26 Western Illinois lead at the break.
The Leathernecks would continue their run, scoring the first four points of the second half to make it an 11-0 run in all and a 31-26 lead. After back-to-back baskets by David Gebru matched WIU's largest lead of the game at 36-29, ORU went on a 10-3 run to knot things back at 39-39.
Morrison found the touch again and scored on back-to-back possessions for ORU to give the Golden Eagles a 45-41 lead midway through the half, forcing Western Illinois to call a timeout.
Again WIU had an answer and within one with less than 30 seconds to play, a turnaround jumper by Parks gave WIU the lead with the shot clock turned off. A held ball with 7.9 seconds left gave the ball back to ORU and they were forced to foul to extend the game.
Clark missed the front end of the one and one, and as ORU grabbed the rebound it appeared that a miracle finish was once more in store, but the ball was knocked loose and the Golden Eagles' hopes of an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament came to an end.
ORU will now have to wait and see if its 27 wins will be enough to earn an at-large bid. Otherwise, the Golden Eagles are guaranteed a spot in the NIT due to their Summit League regular season championship.