ORU falls at Memphis, 72-57
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Saturday, December 29, 2012
12/29/12 at 6:40 AM
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Oral Roberts faced steep odds even before taking the basketball court against Memphis on Friday night.
The Golden Eagles lost Steven Roundtree to an ankle and knee sprain during a Thursday practice at the FedExForum, decimating an interior game already faced with injury.
ORU - which only had eight players available - never found its groove as Memphis defeated the Eagles 72-57 before an announced crowd of 16,410.
The Eagles (5-7) dropped their third straight contest. The team will make its Southland Conference debut with a road game at Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday.
"I thought our guys, especially Damen (Bell-Holder), got really fatigued in the second half," ORU coach Scott Sutton said. "Give Memphis credit. Those guys are talented and athletic and deep.
"I thought our guys competed much, much better than we did Saturday afternoon."
Sutton was referring to the Eagles' 72-68 home loss to rival Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane climbed from a 17-point second-half deficit for a comeback victory.
"As a team, to be able to come in here with a little bit of adversity with losing (Roundtree) and coming off a terrible loss Saturday, I thought our guys bounced back and competed," Sutton said. "If we'll compete like that and play hard the rest of the year, we'll win a bunch of games."
Memphis (8-3) did a solid job defensively on Warren Niles, the Golden Eagles' top scorer. The senior guard entered as the nation's ninth-leading scorer averaging 21.3 points an outing but missed his first nine shots. His lone bucket was a baseline jumper with 6:20 remaining in a game that already out of reach. He ended with a season-low two points.
"Good defense. Great defense," Sutton said, explaining the low output. "Warren has struggled at times against long, athletic players and they did a good job. They kept a fresh guy on him the whole night, but at the same time he has to do a good job of working without the ball and getting open and the other guys have to do a good job of screening."
"We did some good things defensively," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "Warren Niles is a big-time player. Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford and Joe Jackson guarded him. Those three guys did an excellent job."
The Eagles were without Roundtree and Jorden Kaufman, two-thirds of its key post players.
Sutton called Roundtree his team's most athletic player.
"When you play a team full of athletes, you need all the help you can get and he could certainly helped with some of those guys in terms of athleticism," Sutton said. "It hurt us and hurt our depth on our bench."
Roundtree, who was in a boot, could be available for next week's Southland road games against Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State, Sutton said.
Bell-Holter was a bright spot for the Eagles. The 6-9 post player had 18 points and 14 rebounds to claim his second double-double this season and 13th of his ORU career.
Missing Roundtree: Oral Roberts played without junior Steven Roundtree in a 72-57 nonconference loss at Memphis on Friday night.
Roundtree suffered a left ankle and knee sprain during a Thursday night practice at the FedExForum. Initially thought to be a serious injury, Roundtree is listed as day-to-day.
"We're hoping to have him back next week," ORU coach Scott Sutton said. "He has a knee sprain and an ankle sprain. We're hoping he can heal quickly and get back on the court for our first two conference games next week."
Rough game: Senior Warren Niles, one of the nation's top scorers, entered the game averaging 21.3 points per contest but ended with a season-low two points.
Niles was held scoreless in the first half. The guard missed all six of his shot attempts, including four 3-pointers.
Niles finished 1-of-11 shooting. His two points was lower than a three-point performance against Belmont last month.
Niles had been the Golden Eagles' top scorer in nine of 11 games entering the Memphis contest.
Career high: Brandon Conley finished with a career-high eight points. The freshman entered the contest with 14 total points in seven game appearances.
Conley fouled out with 12:27 remaining.
"I thought our freshmen grew up a little bit in a hostile environment," Sutton said. "I thought Brandon Conley continues to improve. If he doesn't get into foul trouble, he's probably going to have 10-12 points and seven or eight rebounds.
"Korey (Billbury) and D.J. (Jackson) both competed and did some good things."
Tigers continue series streak: Memphis defeated the Golden Eagles for the sixth consecutive time, including a pair of NCAA Tournament victories. The teams last met in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, with top-seeded Memphis capturing a 90-74 victory over the No. 16 Eagles.
Original Print Headline: ORU clipped at Memphis
Eric Bailey 918-581-8391
Memphis' D.J. Stephens (center) grabs a rebound in front of Oral Roberts' Damen Bell-Holter (left) and Brandon Conley. MARK WEBER/AP