Oklahoma is not Mid-Major friendly. Oral Roberts is our only Other 24 team, as a member of the Summit/Badlands/Mid-Con. I'm originally from Texas, and have lived in Maryland, and both states were very mid-friendly. On the other hand, Oklahoma is all about being above the Red Line. The University of Oklahoma, somehow known as OU, athletic department is run like a corporation. The sporting events, other than football, are run like poorly attended NBDL games (OK, so that means they're run just like all NBDL games). There is nothing mid-major about it. I have no love for OU. However, they do bring in the occasional mid-major to play. Steph Curry made a stop here in 2008, which I regrettably missed, and Sacramento State and Northwestern State are on this season's schedule.
As a resident of this state, I knew going into the 800 Game Project that my opportunities to participate would be limited, so on Monday when I was given free tickets to tonight's Oral Roberts at Oklahoma game, I took my shot.
OU is a huge public research university with a classic campus. It is well-funded, plays in a large arena, has a new, semi-famous coach in Lon Kruger, gets high-level recruits, and has a major conference affiliation (and major recruiting violations).
ORU is a tiny Christian liberal arts school in Tulsa named after a televangelist. It has an oddly modern, spaceship-y campus, a long-serving and relatively successful coach in Scott Sutton, who comes from a famous Oklahoma basketball family, and few, if any, big-time recruits. Its home gym doubles as a chapel.
The game was close until about halfway through the first half. Unfortunately, the Golden Eagles could not hit a jump shot all night (going 1-for-15 from the three-point line), and many of the attempts were air balls and bad bricks. At no point did it seem like ORU was outmatched or outmuscled -- and at times it seemed like the more physical team -- but it just simply missed shots that the Sooners were knocking down. A lot of shots. When the ORU guards avoided high traps on the ball, they were finding their post players in scoring position. I was really impressed with the execution that ORU had on the offensive end when they got into their sets but that just didn't happen often enough. Also, a number of well-run plays ended with missed layups, especially in the second half.
Though only down 10 at the end of the first half, it was a heavy 10, and ORU didn't have the horses for a comeback. If you've ever seen the Keanu Reeves locker-room speech in "The Replacements" where he talks about quicksand (gives me goosebumps every time) and how sometimes the harder you try, the worse things get, that was ORU tonight. At times, it seemed as if the Golden Eagles were pressing and would blow easy opportunities and open shots with excessive dribbling, bad decisions and over-aggression.
After starting PG Roderick Pearson, Jr. fouled out with 11 minutes to go with ORU down 10, things never really got better.
One bright spot for the Golden Eagles was Dominique Morrison, a smooth forward with "Predator"-style dreads. He played all 40 minutes, much of it as a point forward, and was the only consistent scorer and decision-maker for ORU, knocking down a few tough runners and continuously attacking the basket. I think ORU is going to do well in the Summit/Badlands/Mid-Con this year. I honestly think that if they had knocked down a few shots late in the second half, the game would have been much closer. I'm curious to see how far they'll have come when March rolls around.
at OKLAHOMA 73, ORAL ROBERTS 59 12/08/2011
ORAL ROBERTS 6-3 (1-0) -- D. Morrison 7-18 6-7 20; D. Bell-Holter 7-11 2-2 16; M. Craion 4-8 0-0 8; S. Roundtree 2-7 4-6 8; W. Niles 0-6 0-0 0; M. Manghum 1-4 0-0 3; R. Pearson Jr. 0-1 1-2 1; J. Lliteras 1-5 1-2 3. Totals 22-60 14-19 59. OKLAHOMA 6-1 (0-0) -- A. Fitzgerald 8-17 0-0 16; S. Pledger 6-11 5-5 17; C. Clark 5-8 4-6 16; S. Grooms 0-3 2-2 2; R. Osby 3-4 1-2 7; T. Neal 1-1 2-2 5; C. Washington 3-4 2-2 8; C. Blair Jr. 1-1 0-1 2; C. Arent 0-3 0-0 0; B. Honore 0-2 0-0 0; T. Franklin 0-0 0-0 0; J. Fraschilla 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-54 16-20 73.
Three-point goals: ORU 1-15 (D. Morrison 0-4; W. Niles 0-2; D. Bell-Holter 0-2; M. Manghum 1-3; J. Lliteras 0-4), OU 3-7 (R. Osby 0-1; S. Pledger 0-2; C. Clark 2-2; T. Neal 1-1; S. Grooms 0-1); Rebounds: ORU 26 (D. Morrison 6), OU 36 (C. Clark 8); Assists: ORU 11 (D. Morrison 2), OU 15 (S. Grooms 5); Total Fouls -- ORU 18, OU 19; Fouled Out: ORU-R. Pearson; OU-R. Osby.