Another Thursday night, another visit to the Mabee Center in south Tulsa for an Oral Roberts game. After parking outside, I made my way in to the familiar confines of the entrance lobby and headed towards the ticket counter. As I passed a small group of people, a lady stopped me and asked if I had a ticket. Caught off guard, I paused for a second, but then told her that I didn't have ticket. She asked if I would like a free ticket, to which I replied of course.
With free ticket in hand, I headed up the escalator to the concourse and in to the arena to find my seat. Tonight the Golden Eagles were taking on the Coyotes of South Dakota. ORU was proving to be the class of The Summit League as they were riding an 11 game winning streak including 10 straight conference wins to start the season. As the starting lineups were announced, I noticed that South Dakota had a starter from Brazil and another from France. I found this interesting because out of all the schools in this country where you can play basketball, the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, South Dakota seemed liked an unlikely place for two foreign students from different continents to end up playing at the same time. Just another one of the great wonders of our game.
Just before the game tipped off, I noticed that the small but spirited student section had returned to action with school back in session. The tip went to the Golden Eagles and as they settled into their half court offense, it was immediately clear what the defensive strategy was going to be for the Coyotes. South Dakota had one defender sticking like glue to Dominique Morrison, the best player in the league, at all times, and that defender never left DoMo to help. The strategy worked early as DoMo couldn't even get a touch in the first few minutes and South Dakota shot out to a quick 6-2 lead. But Oral Roberts is not a one man show. They are stocked full of talented players who can score, and score they did. ORU quickly tied the game at six with two free throws from Rod Pearson and a lay in by Michael Craion going in to the under 16 timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Mikey Manghum entered the game for the Golden Eagles, and with DoMo struggling to find any breathing room offensively, Mikey stepped up big. After a four point play from the Coyotes' Louie Krogman, Mikey answered with a wide open #superhoop. On the next possession, he buried a second straight #superhoop and two minutes later, he knocked down his third straight followed immediately by his fourth. Not only was Mikey on fire, but with South Dakota's complete obsession with shutting down DoMo, they continued to leave Mikey wide open, despite the fact that he couldn't miss.
At the 9:45 mark of the half, South Dakota achieved their goal of shutting down DoMo, at least for the first half when he was forced to take a seat on the bench with his second foul, having attempted no shots. This mattered little as the Golden Eagles held a six-point lead and it would soon be clear that the Coyotes had failed to learn their lesson with Mikey Manghum. Shortly after DoMo's second foul, Mikey buried his fifth consecutive #superhoop, followed shortly by his sixth, which bounced twice on the rim before it fell through. These two baskets quickly pushed the ORU lead to 12, and the rout was on. The Golden Eagles turned up the pressure defensively, including putting on a full court trap press, which started forcing South Dakota into turnovers that turned into easy buckets for ORU. With about five minutes left in the half, ORU's Jake Lliteras put the Golden Eagles' dominance on full display as he stole the ball from Nick Mabbutt, broke down the floor with Mabbutt hanging with him stride for stride, and then threw down a powerful one-handed #OMGDUNKZ! right in Mabbutt's face. By half time, the lead for ORU sat at 20 and they were making it look easy.
The second half started off with a quick 7-0 run from ORU to push the lead to 27, and it was clear that there wasn't going to be much drama for the rest of the game except for whether ORU could make it to 100 and whether DoMo would be able to score any points. The answer to the latter of those two questions was yes, as DoMo finally got on the board with a tough driving lay in with 12:35 left in the game. He would eventually score ten points before leaving the game as South Dakota realized that they couldn't just face guard one player the entire time.
Games like this one happen in our game. One team is clearly dominant and the score gets out of hand. Games like this can hurt for the team on the losing end, but you wouldn't know it if you watched the effort of the South Dakota players throughout the second. Despite the insurmountable deficit, they continued to play hard to the end. But, the effort wasn't enough to stop the onslaught of the superiority of the Golden Eagles. In the end ORU was unable to make it to the century mark, coming up just short with a final score of 97-64.
at ORAL ROBERTS 97, SOUTH DAKOTA 64 01/26/2012
SOUTH DAKOTA 7-13 (2-9) -- T. Gruis 5-10 1-2 11; C. Westbrook 10-14 2-5 23; L. Krogman 3-6 1-1 9; J. Boots 2-5 0-0 6; B. Bos 1-5 4-5 6; R. Andreotti 1-1 0-0 2; S. Tecker 2-5 0-0 4; A. Saint-Gelias 0-5 0-0 0; N. Mabbutt 1-4 0-0 3; J. Bartling 0-0 0-0 0; N. Hilliard IV 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 8-13 64. ORAL ROBERTS 19-4 (11-0) -- W. Niles 4-7 2-2 11; S. Roundtree 7-11 3-4 17; D. Bell-Holter 2-7 2-4 6; M. Craion 7-9 4-5 18; D. Morrison 2-4 6-6 10; M. Manghum 6-7 0-0 18; R. Pearson Jr. 3-7 2-2 8; J. Lliteras 1-3 1-1 3; R. Aery 2-5 0-0 6. Totals 34-60 20-24 97.
Three-point goals: SDAK 6-18 (L. Krogman 2-4; J. Boots 2-4; A. Saint-Gelias 0-3; C. Westbrook 1-1; S. Tecker 0-1; B. Bos 0-2; N. Mabbutt 1-3), ORU 9-16 (R. Pearson 0-1; W. Niles 1-2; D. Bell-Holter 0-1; M. Manghum 6-6; R. Aery 2-4; J. Lliteras 0-2); Rebounds: SDAK 23 (C. Westbrook 6), ORU 33 (M. Craion 10); Assists: SDAK 11 (C. Westbrook 4), ORU 21 (M. Manghum 4); Total Fouls -- SDAK 21, ORU 16; Fouled Out: SDAK-A. Saint-Gelias; ORU-None.