TULSA, Okla.-A late first-half run shifted the momentum and ORU was able to run past Northwestern State in the second half to remain undefeated in Southland Conference play with an 80-74 victory Thursday night at the Mabee Center.
Down as many as nine at one point and down six with a minute to go, Warren Niles scored five points in the final 40 seconds for ORU (8-7, 3-0) to trim the lead to one at the halftime break.
Niles finished with 19 points, but was overshadowed by Damen Bell-Holter's 25 point, 20 rebound game. It was the fourth double-double of the season, the 15th of his career and the third in the last four games for Bell-Holter.
It was also the first 20-point, 20-rebound game for a Golden Eagle since Feb. 28, 2004 when Caleb Green had 29 points and 22 rebounds against Southern Utah. It is also the first 25/20 game in the nation at the Division I level this year.
Joining the offensive barrage was Shawn Glover, who had the first double-double with his career with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and D.J. Jackson, who set new career highs with 15 points and six rebounds.
The victory moves ORU over the .500 mark for the first time since December 5 and is a 3-0 to start conference play for the second time in five years, but the second year in a row.
"That was a big win and a great win in a lot of different ways," said Coach Scott Sutton. "That was a good team we beat. We knew they were good coming in but I think they are better than advertised. I was proud of our guys. They found a way to win and they continued to get better. Damen continues to play at a very high level and D.J. Jackson came in and other than his turnovers played a heck of a game. As a family, I told [the team] after the game that we really appreciated. We need that in a lot of different ways and they stepped up and got a big win."
ORU played just seven players, while Northwestern State (9-5, 3-1) had 10 players who saw action, all of whom played at least 14 minutes.
The Demons got 18 points from DeQuan Hicks, while preseason all-conference selections James Hulbin and Shamir Davis scored 14 and 13, respectively.
ORU held a 46-27 rebounding edge, out-rebounding the opponent by a season-high 19 for the second game in a row.
Offensive rebounding was the key early as ORU missed shots on each of the first three possessions but kept it alive on the board, converting each time on the second chance. ORU would start the game on an 8-0 run and it was the 16:54 mark in the first half before the Demons scored. They would hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it an 8-6 game.
Less than nine minutes into the game and Bell-Holter already had nine rebounds in the game, as ORU scored 10 of the first 16 points off offensive rebounds.
A 9-0 Demon run gave them a 21-16 lead and they would stretch it to a nine point lead as ORU hit just three of its first nine free throw attempts. Bell-Holter led the Golden Eagles back, though, cutting it to a six point game after recording a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first 16 minutes of the game.
Niles woke things up with less than a minute to go as he scored five points in less than a minute to make it a one-point game at the break as the Demons led 39-38.
ORU hit five of its first six shots to start the second half, but turned the ball over four times in the first five minutes, keeping the Demons in the game as the teams traded leads to start the half.
After sliding a pass to Glover for a jam, Jackson got his own points as he buried another 3-pointer to give ORU a 63-57 lead, nearly halfway through the second half, the largest lead for either team at that point in the second half.
It wouldn't be the largest the rest of the way though, as ORU would swell it to an 11-point advantage at 74-63 with less than four minutes to play in the game.
One last Demon run would make things interesting as they cut the lead to six, 74-68 with just over a minute to play.
After being cause for concern early, it was free throw shooting that helped the Golden Eagles ice the game away.
The Golden Eagles will face the only other remaining unbeaten SLC team as they host Stephen F. Austin on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. inside the Mabee Center.