Oral Roberts headed to NCAA tournament for 3rd straight year
TULSA, Okla. (AP)—Without stars Caleb Green and Ken Tutt, the NCAA tournament was supposed to be a much more difficult goal for Oral Roberts to achieve.
Enter a new line of sharpshooters and a solid post presence, and the Golden Eagles are bracket-bound again.
Moses Ehambe hit seven 3-pointers and scored 25 points, and Oral Roberts earned an automatic NCAA tournament berth by beating IUPUI 71-64 Tuesday night to win its third straight Summit League tournament title.
“They’re part of the reason why I really wanted to get to the tournament. When people would say that we couldn’t do it without Caleb and Ken—granted, they are great players, All-American and everything—but I knew deep down inside we could do it, and we did,” Ehambe said.
“Now we’re about to go in, and we’re about to make some noise.”
The departure of Green, a three-time conference player of the year, and Tutt left the Golden Eagles to depend on a cast of characters this season. Ehambe was a streaky shooter, hitting eight 3s in the quarterfinals and then getting shut out in the semis before another solid performance. Robert Jarvis again excelled off the bench, and Shawn King came through with the inside play that Green used to provide.
“It’s always a sweet moment,” Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said. “They’re all different but this year, for this team to do what they’ve done after what we lost last year, speaks volumes about the character and toughness and that this was a team. No superstars.”
King backed in for a layup to put Oral Roberts up 59-57 with 2:51 left, and Jarvis added a jumper in the lane on the next trip down as the Golden Eagles took the lead to stay.
Summit League player of the year George Hill answered with a driving layup for IUPUI (26-7), but Jarvis—the top-scoring reserve in the country— connected on a 3-pointer from the right side and Hill couldn’t match him on the other end.
King was fouled on the rebound and hit both of his free throws, pushing the lead to 66-59 for the Golden Eagles (24-8) with 1:20 left.
Hill cruised in for a right-handed dunk on the Jaguars’ next possession, but couldn’t convert on another drive or a 3-pointer in the final minute to close the deficit. Oral Roberts went 5-for-8 from the free throw line in the final 63 seconds to seal the win.
Fans stormed the court to celebrate the third consecutive NCAA tournament bid for the tiny Tulsa school founded by a televangelist.
“It feels fantastic,” said Jarvis, a freshman. “It’s going to feel better whenever our name pops up on that board.”
Jarvis scored 16 points and King had 10 points and eight rebounds despite playing only 19 minutes with foul trouble.
Hill had 24 points to lead the Jaguars, Austin Montgomery scored 16 and Gary Patterson added 14. IUPUI was seeking its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003.
“We’re not going back to the hotel to sulk. We planned a nice celebration, and we’re going to have that celebration tonight,” Jaguars coach Ron Hunter said. “We are going to celebrate this. We’re not going to let this moment deter anything from what we’ve done.
“I’ve got the best kids in the world, and we’re going to celebrate.”
IUPUI fell behind early on, yielding a 14-2 run that Kelvin Sango capped with a layup that made it 17-6. The Jaguars slowly chipped away and got within 28-27 on Patterson’s jumper from the left wing before Ehambe closed the first half with a 3-pointer.
Ehambe then hit three more 3-pointers in the first 5 minutes of the second half to push Oral Roberts to a 45-36 advantage before IUPUI rallied again to tie it at 47 on John Avery’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 10:55 to play.
Hill’s 3-pointer from the top of the key gave IUPUI its final lead of the game at 57-55 with 4:20 left before Sango tied it on a layup for Oral Roberts.
“We hope that we get the opportunity to play in postseason play. These kids have worked hard for it,” Hunter said. “The one thing I’ll be disappointed in is if Sunday night I’m looking to see who got into the NIT … and .500 teams got in.”