STILLWATER, Okla.-A running-three at the buzzer proved the difference in a game that had 11 lead changes and seven ties, as Oral Roberts (0-2) fell 78-77 to UTSA (2-0) in the first round of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Tip-Off.
The Golden Eagles surrendered a 15-point halftime lead and allowed the Roadrunners to shoot 63 percent (17-27) in the second half. ORU also hit just one of four free throw attempts with less than 10 seconds left in the game but still held a two point lead with four seconds left in the game. A running three by Sei Paye at the buzzer dashed the hopes that ORU had of facing Oklahoma State in the second round with a chance to go to the semifinals of the NIT Tip-Off in New York City. OSU was a big winner of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the first game of the day. ORU will face Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.
"Everyone is going to talk about the last shot, but that game was lost in the first five minutes of the second half," said Head Coach Scott Sutton. "Our guys came out of the locker room and just weren't ready to play. We came out flat and give UTSA credit, they cut into our lead and next thing you knew we had a ballgame."
Steven Roundtree led the Golden Eagles with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Warren Niles had 20 points, despite going 2-7 from the free throw line. Dominique Morrison added 17 points as ORU shot 50 percent (26-52) for the game and held a 30-25 rebounding edge over the Roadrunners.
UTSA was led by Kannon Burrage, who put on a show in the second half, scoring 18 of his 22 points to help the Roadrunners get back in the game.
The game started as a battle of runs, with UTSA using a 10-0 run to open up a 13-5 lead on the Golden Eagles, who responded with a 9-2 run of their own to get back to within one (15-14).
With six of their first eight field goals being layups or tip-ins around the basket, the Golden Eagles finally took the lead at 20-19, after a pair of free throws by Craion. After that, the lead changed five-straight times.
A pair of threes by Mikey Manghum sparked the ORU offense late in the half and a pair of fast-break layups by Roundtree and Pearson, combined with a three by Jake Lliteras-the first of his ORU career-made it a 15 point ORU advantage at the break. The three made it a 20-5 run by ORU to finish the half as the defense held UTSA without a field goal over the final 2:32 of the half to open up a 46-31 lead.
With the first six ORU points in the second half coming off free throws, UTSA outscored the Golden Eagles 31-10 to start the half, led by 11 points from Burrage, to take a 62-56 lead.
ORU stayed in the game and took the lead again with just over 1 minute remaining, 74-73 after a pair of Roundtree free throws. A Morrison jumper made it 76-75 with 30 seconds to go and after a couple of UTSA attempts, Niles pulled down a rebound with 6.1 seconds on the clock. Niles missed both free throws, but an offensive rebound by Roundtree gave ORU another chance to make it a three-point lead, meaning a long heave would do no more than tie the game.
Roundtree went one of two, and Paye took advantage, weaving into the middle of the court before launching a 35-footer at the buzzer to push UTSA into the regional championship against OSU.