Oral Roberts faces stingy Stephen F. Austin defense
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2013
1/12/13 at 4:59 AM
First-year Southland Conference member Oral Roberts will play its biggest league home game of the season Saturday night, when a 13-1 Stephen F. Austin squad will take an eight-game winning streak to the Mabee Center.
And - more on this later - baskets could be few and far between.
ORU was picked to win the Southland Conference. Stephen F. Austin was picked second. Two weeks into league play, the Golden Eagles (3-0) and Lumberjacks (4-0) are the only teams with spotless Southland records. One of them will enter next week alone at the top of the standings.
"We have talked about that," ORU senior forward Damen Bell-Holter said Thursday, after the Golden Eagles survived the first of two homecourt challenges by beating a Northwestern State team with the Southland's best RPI.
Bell-Holter described the Stephen F. Austin game as "must-win" because it will be difficult to win at Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin later in the season.
"In order to win a conference championship, you can't lose at home," he said.
"So we have to come out and play strong and play tough on Saturday."
And ORU will have to find a way to put the ball in the hole, a simple task that gets complicated when the opponent is Stephen F. Austin.
The Lumberjacks lead the nation in scoring defense and rank 16th in field-goal-percentage defense. Call it business as usual.
Stephen F. Austin has ranked among the nation's top 10 teams in scoring defense each of the past five years, leading the nation in 2011 and placing second in 2008 and 2009. Players come and go. The system is being sustained.
"We try to recruit players that are willing to buy into our philosophy that defense will always help you win games you shouldn't probably win," coach Danny Kaspar said. "Thus far this year, the players have bought in and done a good job of playing really good team defense."
Interesting contrast: Kaspar once worked as an assistant at Lamar for former Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs, who coveted 100-point games. Now Kaspar helms a program that surrenders half-a-hundred points a game.
"Billy is a good basketball coach, but his emphasis was on offense," Kaspar said.
Kaspar's roots are in defense. He said he played for a good high school defensive team coached by Mike Kunstadt, who now presides over the top basketball recruiting service in Texas.
Kaspar said he got a Division I scholarship because of his ability to shoot.
"And yet there were games where I felt like I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn," he said. "I just couldn't explain why I didn't shoot it well that night."
That helped shape what would become Kaspar's mission statement: If you get defensive stops, you can prevail when shots aren't dropping. And he was proven right during a Dec. 18 trip to Norman, when Stephen F. Austin shot 39.3 percent and beat Oklahoma by holding the Sooners to 37.9 percent shooting.
During the course of Kaspar's career, he said he has stolen ideas from great defensive coaches (Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo) and "kind of forged a philosophy of my own."
ORU coach Scott Sutton (whose father played for legendary defense-first coach Henry Iba at Oklahoma State) and Kaspar are branches from the Iba tree. Kaspar once worked for Gene Iba, the icon's nephew, at Baylor.
"Henry Iba would come to our practices every year for about a week and watch practices and critique," Kaspar said. "That was quite a thrill to have Henry Iba there."
This is a streak Iba would appreciate: Stephen F. Austin has held opponents to fewer than 70 points in 46 consecutive games. The streak was extended, barely, when the Lumberjacks held Central Arkansas to 69 points Thursday.
If the streak stops at 46, ORU might enter next week in the Southland Conference driver's seat.
Original Print Headline: Eagles facing stingy foe
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389