CEDAR CITY, Utah-Oral Roberts edged Southern Utah 73-71 on the road Saturday, finishing the regular season at 26-5 and 17-1 in the Summit League. It is the most conference wins in school history and sends ORU into the Summit League tournament on a six-game winning streak.
ORU missed 10 free throws in the game including a couple in the last 17 seconds but was able to hold on for the victory, led by Dominique Morrison's 24 points. Roderick Pearson added 15 points and six assists for ORU, while Warren Niles hit three 3-pointers and finished with 12 points. Damen Bell-Holter had six points but a team-high six rebounds as ORU was out-rebounded 28-25 for just the ninth time this season.
Jackson Stevenett had 22 points to lead a cast of four in double figures for SUU. Damen Heuir had 15 points, while Ray Jones, Jr. had 11 points and a team-high six rebounds. Ramell Taylor had 10 points for the Thunderbirds.
ORU shot 55.1 percent (27-49) for the game and 60.9 percent (14-23) in the second half, dominating most of the statistical categories including points in the paint (30-24) and fast break points (12-2). With six ties and seven lead changes, neither team's lead was safe until the final buzzer.
Trailing by as many as five in the early going, the Golden Eagles retook the lead on an alley-oop to Bell-Holter to make it 21-20. A long jumper by Pearson made it a 3-point ORU lead but Heuir hit a 3 with 28 seconds to go to tie the game. Morrison tried to get the lead back with an open look from three at the buzzer but couldn't get the shot to fall.
After trading baskets to start the second half, ORU used an 8-0 run to grab their largest lead of the game to that point at 41-33 after Morrison tipped in his own miss.
ORU continued to control things until late in the second half as SUU clawed back in and made it a one-point game, 69-68, after a pair of Stevenett free throws. With ORU up two with 17 seconds to go, SUU elected to foul Pearson, who hit the first but missed the second, giving Southern Utah a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer. Heuir missed the open look but the tip in was good by Jordan Johnson with less than 3 seconds left taking the lead back down to one. Niles' second free throw attempt rimmed out and SUU was left with a heave that fell short at the buzzer.
Entering as the top seed, ORU will begin play in the 2012 Summit League Championship on Saturday in Sioux City, S.D. The Golden Eagles will face the number 8 seed IPFW at 6 p.m. on March 3 in a contest that will be televised on Midco Sports Network and Fox College Sports.