ORU clinches Summit League championship
BY Staff Reports
Thursday, February 16, 2012
2/16/12 at 5:15 AM
FORT WAYNE, Ind. - Make room in the trophy case. The Oral Roberts basketball team has another Summit League championship.
The Golden Eagles clinched the title outright with Wednesday's hard-fought 75-71 win at IPFW as Warren Niles scored 24 points.
ORU rallied from a nine-point deficit over the final 14:43 and Michael Craion blocked Antwaun Boyd's potential game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds with the Eagles nursing a two-point lead.
Craion chipped in 18 points, going 8-for-9 from the field, and Dominique Morrison added 15 as the Eagles won their first conference title in four years and the fifth in head coach Scott Sutton's 13 seasons.
The Eagles improved to 24-5 overall and 16-1 in league play, tying the school record for conference wins. The 24 regular-season wins are a high in the Sutton era.
The Eagles also locked up the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, March 3-6 in Sioux Falls, S.D., and guaranteed themselves an NIT berth in case they miss out on the NCAA Tournament.
They did it in a typical fashion. They scratched and clawed to overcome their own inconsistencies, 17 turnovers and a determined effort by the 'Dons (10-16, 4-12), who are fighting to qualify for the conference tournament. IPFW junior guard Frank Gaines had five treys among his 28 points.
"It was a tough game and I'm proud of the guys," Sutton said. "We played awful in the first half, and they just battled back and fought and again made plays down the srretch. It's pretty amazing how they find ways to win. We've done it all year. It just shows character and toughness to be able to win games like that."
Twelve of the Eagles' conference wins have been decided by 10 points or less. They improved to 7-4 when tied or behind at halftime (IPFW led 36-33) and 21-0 when leading with three minutes to play.
Steven Roundtree had two key tip-ins and finished with eight points, a team-high seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Niles went 6-for-9 from the field, 3-for-4 from the arc, and 9-for-11 from the foul line in his second-highest scoring game of the season. He also passed Moses Ehambe (2004-08) for seventh place on the ORU list for career treys. He now has 184.
Niles' two foul shots with 18 seconds left gave ORU a 72-68 lead, but Gaines' long-range bomb made it 72-71 and Niles was fouled again with 14 seconds left.
His first shot went in, but the second popped out. IPFW's John Peckinpaugh rebounded and the Mastodons (10-16, 4-12) had a chance to win on Boyd's closing 3-pointer.
But Craion flew through the air to reject Boyd's shot and IPFW's Trey McCorkle fouled Roundtree.
ORU returns home to host Akron at 1 p.m. Saturday for a nationally televised BracketBusters contest on ESPN2 (Cox 26).
The Eagles trailed 51-42 with 14:43 left and 56-48 with 11:16 left, but ran off eight straight points, tying on a foul shot by Morrison with 8:01 left.
ORU tied again at 60 when Roundtree tipped in a Morrison miss, took only its second lead of the game on Morrison's basket with 5:20 left, and went ahead to stay on a Niles basket with 4:04 left.
Roundtree tipped in another Morrison miss with 3:03 left and ORU had its largest lead at 66-62.
Craion scored at 1:32 and again with 31 seconds left after IPFW had gotten within two. Two foul shots by Boyd closed the lead again, but Niles was fouled immediately and made it 72-68, setting up the frantic finish.
Summit League standings
|Oral Roberts|| 24||5||16||1 |
|North Dakota St.|| 16||10||9||7|
|Southern Utah|| 13||14||8||9|
|South Dakota|| 9||16||4||12|
Original Print Headline: ORU clinches Summit title
1 p.m. Saturday
Radio: KYAL fm97.1
Warren Niles: The guard led ORU with 24 points in his second-highest scoring game of the season. He hit key foul shots late in the game to hold off IPFW.