ORU basketball: Midseason review
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
1/09/13 at 5:32 AM
7-7 overall, 2-0 Southland
ORU was picked to win its new conference. Consider it a good omen that the Golden Eagles went on the road to open league play and cruised to double-digit victories over Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State. Much tougher Southland games are ahead. We'll find out during an important homestand this week if ORU can keep up with the Joneses in a new neighborhood.
There probably isn't one. ORU has been good for at least one giant-killing feat per season during the Scott Sutton era, but the Golden Eagles' best RPI win this season came in a road game at Pacific, which has an RPI of 122. Three losses came to teams in the top 21 of the RPI and all seven defeats came to teams in the top 107 of the RPI.
ORU has lost to only one opponent ranked outside the top 100 of the RPI. That's Tulsa, which has an RPI of 107. Most disappointing about the Mayor's Cup defeat was the manner in which it occurred. The Golden Eagles, despite having a more experienced roster in a rivalry game, squandered a 17-point second-half lead at home.
Senior guard Warren Niles has played at a high enough level that he should be among the candidates for MVP honors in the Southland Conference. He is college basketball's 15th-leading scorer, and he ranks 39th nationally in 3-point percentage. He has been held below 18 points just three times in 14 games.
Is this the most pleasant surprise? Sutton wanted post player Damen Bell-Holter, who entered his senior season with career averages of 8.7 points and 5.7 rebounds, to average close to a double-double this season. Bell-Holter is oh-so-close with averages of 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds. He exploded in the last three games, averaging 26.3 points and 11.7 rebounds.
Toughest remaining game
On Feb. 9, Oral Roberts will travel to Nacogdoches, Texas, to face Stephen F. Austin, which leads the nation in scoring defense. Stephen F. Austin was picked second behind ORU in the Southland Conference's preseason poll and is 2-0 against teams (OU, TU) from Oklahoma this season. The Lumberjacks will pay a Saturday visit to the Mabee Center.
ORU will make the NCAA Tournament if ...
ORU will have to win the Southland Conference Tournament (scheduled for March 12-16 in Katy, Texas) in order to get an NCAA Tournament invitation. The top two teams in the Southland standings get byes into the tournament semifinals. Before March arrives, the Golden Eagles must get healthy (starting forward Steven Roundtree missed the last three games) and develop a bench.
ORU's Damen Bell-Holter throws up a reverse layup last season. The senior has exploded in the last three games. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World file