John Klein: ORU's loss to Nevada marks dismal end to good season
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Thursday, March 15, 2012
3/15/12 at 5:11 AM
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ORU notebook: On the team
Finality strikes ORU in NIT loss to Nevada
Original Print Headline: ORU's loss to Nevada marks dismal end to good season
There was much discussion about whether Oral Roberts belonged in the NCAA Tournament.
The way the Golden Eagles played on Wednesday night, it appeared they didn't belong in the National Invitation Tournament either.
"I hated going out like that," said ORU coach Scott Sutton.
ORU, at the end of a marvelous season, failed in every important game that would have turned a good season into a memorable one.
Nevada turned up the heat defensively, dominating on the interior and forcing ORU into difficult shots, as the Wolf Pack ran away to a 68-59 victory in the NIT first round at the Mabee Center.
The Golden Eagles, who were the subject of much NCAA talk last week, showed why they did not belong in the big dance.
"We missed so many easy shots," said Sutton.
In fact, the way the Eagles played, it appeared they had no interest in the NIT either.
That's too bad.
"We played hard," said Sutton. "We didn't play well."
The 27 victories will soon be forgotten because of two poor games at the end of the season.
In addition, the two losses to end the season probably didn't do much to enhance the resume of ORU coach Scott Sutton, who has been the subject of rumors that he might be on the move to a different job.
Sutton has been mentioned in connection to jobs at Tulsa, SMU and Nebraska. However, the past two weeks have not been kind to ORU and Sutton.
The Golden Eagles just never seemed to get into a rythym against the Wolf Pack.
ORU's Dominique Morrison, superb for much of the season, was shut out in the first and could manage only 13 points.
"He'll go down as one of the top 10 players ever at Oral Roberts University," said Sutton.
Yet, Morrison was no factor down the stretch. The Golden Eagles had no late-game magic in this game.
"It's over," said Morrison. "It is time for the real world."
Just like it did in a loss to Western Illinois in the Summit League Tournament semifinals, the Golden Eagles faded badly down the stretch.
In the final 12 minutes, ORU hit just three field goals.
That won't get it done against bad teams.
It certainly gives you no chance to beat good teams like Nevada. The Wolf Pack was the WAC regular season champion and also felt snubbed by the NCAA.
"That's an NCAA Tournament team," said Sutton. "They played like it."
Nevada used the snub for motivation.
The Golden Eagles cruised to the Summit League's regular season title, earning an automatic bid to the NIT.
However, ORU had its eyes on a much bigger prize at the end of this season. The Eagles hoped to go back to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in seven years.
Instead, Oral Roberts collapsed in the Summit League semifinals in a loss to lowly Western Illinois.
"Nevada was a lot better team than Western Illinois," said Sutton.
After ORU was passed over on Selection Sunday, the Eagles got some good news when it was given a home game in the NIT.
Arizona, the top seed in ORU's bracket, lost on Wednesday night. That means ORU's loss cost the Golden Eagles what would have been a second-round NIT game at ORU.
"I felt we had a good chance to get there (NIT Final Four in New York)," said Sutton. "We had a great opportunity."
It didn't matter.
Nevada was the team that looked like it wanted to keep playing.
"We weren't good down the stretch these last two games," said Sutton. "I guess our luck ran out."
ORU appeared ready to end what was a painful end to this season.
"It was a great season," said Sutton. "I loved coaching this team.
"We accomplished a lot for a team that had a short bench and faced some adversity. We won 27 games with this bunch and that is a great accomplishment. I'm sure sometime down the road they'll appreciate what they did."
The Golden Eagles led 30-29 at halftime but they were not sharp.
The good news was that Nevada seemded to be equally lathargic.
ORU hit just 13-of-30 and Nevada knocked home just 12-of-31 shots in the first half.
As a result, ORU was never able to get away from the Wolf Pack in a game that was tight for the first 20 minutes.
Morrison was held scoreless and Oral Roberts missed a handful of point-blank shots.
What should have been a comfortable lead turned out to be a tight game because the Eagles simply could not convert easy chances.
The trend continued in the second half.
Oral Roberts' Warren Niles (right) steals the ball from Nevada's Malik Story (left) during ORU's 59-68 NIT tournament loss to Nevada, at the Mabee Center, in Tulsa, Okla., on Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2012. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World