SIOUX FALLS, S.D.-Warren Niles (Cincinnati, Ohio) scored seven of his game-high 19 points in the final 55 seconds to lift second-seeded Oral Roberts to a 72-65 win over seventh-seeded North Dakota State in the opening round of the Summit League Tournament, Saturday at Sioux Falls Arena.
Niles made a key three-pointer with less than a minute to play and went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 15 seconds to help the Golden Eagles (18-14) to their ninth straight victory.
ORU gets a day of rest and advances to Monday's semifinal round where they will face the winner of Sunday's quarterfinal matchup between IUPUI and UMKC.
A see-saw affair throughout, the second half featured six different ties, but the Golden Eagles never trailed. After holding a 36-32 halftime advantage, ORU led by as many as six points (42-36) early in the second half but never gained real separation from the Bison (14-15).
The game's last tie came when NDSU's Mike felt hit a jumper to make it 54-54 with 7:50 remaining. ORU didn't get any breathing room until Damen Bell-Holter (Hydaburg, Alsaka) and Dominique Morrison (Kansas City, Mo.) made three-of-four free throws in a span of 42 seconds for a 63-58 lead with 3:14 to play.
Bell-Holter hit a layup for a 65-60 advantage with 2:46 left and, after NDSU's TrayVonn Wright's layup made it 65-62 with 1:21 left, Niles hit a three-pointer from the top of the key for a 68-62 lead with 55 seconds left.
But that almost wasn't enough. After Wright hit a pair of free throws to get the Bison within 68-64, Morrison fumbled the in-bounds pass, giving the ball back to NDSU.
Taylor Braun, however, immediately gave it right back, setting up a would-be game-clinching dunk for Steven Roundtree (Jacksonville, Fla.). But Roundtree missed it and Drew Lundberg was fouled on the rebound and went to the free throw line with a chance to pull the Bison within two points.
Lundberg made one-of-two to make it 68-65 with 18 seconds left. But Niles put the game away with four straight free throws to keep the Golden Eagles alive.
Niles was 6-of-13 from the field and made all six of his free throws. The sophomore guard also grabbed four rebounds and dished two assists.
Morrison chipped in with 18 points and seven rebounds, but the junior forward struggled with his shooting by making 6-of-16 from the field on a night when the Golden Eagles shot just 42 percent overall.
Bell-Holter added 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Wright led NDSU with 19 points and seven rebounds, but the Bison were just 4-of-15 from three-point range and 15-of-23 from the free throw line.
The Golden Eagles out-rebounded NDSU 36-30, and made 21-of-25 (84 percent) from the free throw line.