Continuing our holiday road trip, my fiancée and I made our way to my home city, Kansas City, to visit my family. College basketball is a big part of the sports scene in Kansas City. The recently built College Basketball Hall of Fame is housed in the Sprint Center in Kansas City, and large portions of the city are diehard fans of nearby above-the-line schools Kansas, Missouri, and Kansas State. But there is a below-the-line school nestled in the city known as the Kangaroos of the University of Missouri-Kansas City or UMKC.
UMKC sits in midtown Kansas City, just a few miles from the famous Country Club Plaza. It had been a few years since I had last been to a Roos game, and there was one notable change. The Roos used to play all their home games in the old Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City. Municipal Auditorium is a historic landmark when it comes to college basketball. Built in 1936, the building has hosted nine college basketball national championships, still the most of any building. It will surely get passed by one of the large stadiums that now host the event, but the fact that the building still holds the record in 2011 is a testament to the rich college basketball tradition in this city. But due to small attendance numbers at UMKC games that rarely came close to filling the 10,000-seat arena, the Roos moved the bulk of their home games to the on-campus Swinney Recreation Center (SRC). Swinney is a multipurpose athletic facility with a primary basketball court where the games are held. With only a few thousands seats and a look similar to my high school's gym, the building is well-suited to host the Roos and provides a great college atmosphere, with all the fans right on top of the action.
Because one of my sisters is currently a student at UMKC and is a member of the dance squad who would be performing at this game, my whole family made it down to the SRC for the Roos game. UMKC's opponent tonight was a familiar team for me, the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts from my current hometown of Tulsa. The Golden Eagles were coming off back-to-back impressive wins over Xavier in Cincinnati and over Texas Tech at home.
The game started off with the tip going to Oral Roberts. After the teams exchanged a couple of empty possessions, UMKC started the scoring with a steal and powerful dunk from junior guard Thomas Staton. After only two minutes had passed, the lone inside presence for UMKC, sophomore center Fred Chatmon, picked up his second foul and was forced to take a seat on the bench. The Golden Eagles quickly took advantage of the Roos lack of size by getting the ball inside. The Roos did their best to neutralize this advantage by constantly doubling the ORU big men whenever the ball made its way to the paint and were able to have some success with this strategy early on, as the score was a 7-7 tie at the under-16 timeout.
After the timeout, Oral Roberts started having more success inside including a nice and-one lay-in from star sophomore Steven Roundtree off what appeared to be an inadvertent no-look pass from senior guard Roderick Pearson. Despite ORU's attempts to pull away with their size advantage, UMKC was able to keep the game close with their one obvious strength, three-point shooting. Running a drive-and-dish offense, the Roos were able to consistently find open shooters on the perimeter to knock down #superhoop after #superhoop. And it wasn't just one shooter knocking down the long range buckets; almost everybody on the UMKC side got in on the action. Five different Roos knocked down three-point buckets in the first half alone and helped UMKC keep the game close going in to the under-four timeout. However, in the last four minutes of the half, the Roos suddenly went cold, as the Golden Eagles continued to dominate inside, finishing the half on a 10-2 run. Without an inside presence, the Roos were going to live by the three or die by the three. ORU held a 40-28 lead at the half.
The halftime entertainment featured a short but impressive dance routine from the UMKC dance squad which, as I mentioned before, included my youngest sister. It was fun getting to watch my sister perform at a college basketball game. She did a great job and I couldn't be prouder.
When the second half started, the Roos looked unphased by the late first-half surge, as they came flying out of the gates with four quick points from Staton. After an ORU jumper from Warren Niles, the Roos added a fast-break dunk and transition three-pointer to cap off a 9-2 run and shrink the deficit to five. The main reason for UMKC's success was a change in defensive strategy. The Roos had switched to a 1-3-1 zone and placed their tallest players out at the top of the zone. The long arms of the UMKC defenders clogged up the passing lanes for ORU and prevented them from getting the ball inside.
With the nearly full house cheering loudly for the Roos after the early surge, the ice-cold senior leader for ORU, Dominique Morrison (a Kansas City native, by the way), quickly quieted the crowd with an impressive short hook shot inside to give ORU a 44-37 lead at the under-16 timeout. The game marched on for the next eight minutes as a back-and-forth affair, as the lead for ORU bounced between five and nine points.
Coming out of the under eight timeout with the score at 59-54 in favor of ORU, sophomore forward Kirk Korver, the final brother of the famous Mid-Majority family, knocked down a #superhoop to pull the Roos within two. But, like the many times before, ORU had an answer for UMKC's surge, as they spread the lead back to seven by the under-four timeout on the shoulders of their leader, Morrison.
The Roos had one last surge, as Korver knocked down another three-pointer to close the gap to five points with one minute to play, but Morrison put the dagger in the hearts of the UMKC fans as he knocked down a fade away jumper despite the outstanding defense by UMKC's Staton, helping to seal the 72-65 victory for ORU.
It was a very exciting game, with UMKC surprisingly hanging tough with one of the Summit League favorites. After the game, my family and I met up with my dancing sister and we made our way to a late dinner to enjoy another Kansas City tradition, barbeque.
ORAL ROBERTS 72, at MISSOURI-KANSAS CITY 65 12/28/2011
ORAL ROBERTS 10-4 (2-0) -- D. Morrison 7-13 14-15 28; R. Pearson Jr. 4-8 0-0 8; W. Niles 2-8 4-4 8; M. Craion 6-8 2-4 14; D. Bell-Holter 2-5 0-0 4; S. Roundtree 4-6 1-1 9; M. Manghum 0-1 1-2 1; J. Lliteras 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-49 22-26 72. MISSOURI-KANSAS CITY 7-8 (1-2) -- R. Chamberlain 4-13 5-6 17; K. Korver 3-12 2-2 10; T. Staton 6-10 3-5 15; E. Tyler 3-7 3-4 10; N. Rogers 1-3 0-2 3; D. Dibble 2-3 0-1 5; J. Gholston 1-4 0-0 3; F. Chatmon 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 21-56 13-20 65.
Three-point goals: ORU 0-11 (R. Pearson 0-2; D. Morrison 0-2; W. Niles 0-6; M. Manghum 0-1), UMKC 10-30 (D. Dibble 1-2; R. Chamberlain 4-10; T. Staton 0-1; N. Rogers 1-2; M. Gholston 1-3; K. Korver 2-9; E. Tyler 1-3); Rebounds: ORU 40 (M. Craion 16), UMKC 13 (T. Staton 5); Assists: ORU 11 (D. Bell-Holter 4), UMKC 16 (E. Tyler 5); Total Fouls -- ORU 19, UMKC 23; Fouled Out: ORU-None; UMKC-None.