John Klein: Stephen F. Austin gives ORU a reality check in Southland showdown
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, January 13, 2013
1/13/13 at 7:15 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog
S.F. Austin hands ORU loss
ORU notebook: More toughness needed
A change of conference scenery, from white-out blizzards to the humidity of the gulf coast, figured to be good for Oral Roberts.
What ORU coach Scott Sutton hoped wouldn't change was the Golden Eagles' winning ways.
Oral Roberts spent 15 years in the Summit League navigating the winters in northern states as a perennial power.
The shift to the Southland, where ORU is the northernmost school, has gone about as well as it could until Stephen F. Austin came to town.
The Lumberjacks, the toughest team in the nation to score on, gave Oral Roberts a bitter lesson in defense.
Oral Roberts struggled to get open shots, missed what few easy looks it got, and Stephen F. Austin rolled to an easy 61-50 victory Saturday night at the Mabee Center.
"That is a really good victory for us because Oral Roberts is a very good team," said Stephen F. Austin coach Danny Kaspar. "They are a quality team with a lot of great basketball tradition.
"I know Scott and Sean (Sutton) do a great job and I know this has been a really tough week for them. I have nothing but the most respect for the entire Sutton family."
In three trips to Oklahoma this season, Stephen F. Austin is 3-0 (swept Oklahoma, Tulsa and Oral Roberts) and gave up just 146 points (48.6 per game). Lucky for Oklahoma State that the Lumberjacks won't be visiting Stillwater this winter.
"Those are all great programs so we feel pretty fortunate to get those wins," said Kaspar. "This game was even more important because it was a league victory.
"We've won five league games so far and three of them on the road. So, yes, I feel pretty good about where we are right now."
We may not know where ORU fits into the Southland Conference but there's little question that Stephen F. Austin is at the top.
"We got beat by a very good basketball team," said Sutton. "They've got tough, smart kids and we did not match their toughness.
"We have six weeks to figure it out in our conference. It is still early in the league season."
The Lumberjacks, as they did in a rout at Tulsa earlier this season, turned this into an easy road victory with defense.
Oral Roberts scored just 29 points in the first 29 minutes of this game as SFA built a 10-point lead.
ORU scored just 21 points in the first half.
Stephen F. Austin has made a habit of taking teams out of their normal offense. So it was for the Golden Eagles, who never got into any kind of rhythm.
As a result, ORU's streak of three straight victories to open the Southland Conference is over. Stephen F. Austin, at 5-0 and with a road victory at ORU, appears clearly in command of the conference chase.
Stephen F. Austin leads the nation in scoring defense at just 50 points per game.
It is easy to see why. The Lumberjacks are absolutely suffocating. When ORU tried to go inside to Damon Bell-Holter, who has been on fire lately, he was swarmed. There were no easy shots on the perimeter where just about every jump shot was contested.
SFA was all over ORU giving the Golden Eagles few easy buckets.
"And, we missed a lot of easy shots," said Sutton. "That's toughness. When you maybe get bumped a little bit or something you still have to make those shots."
The first half was especially strong by Stephen F. Austin. ORU scored just 21 points. It hit just 10 field goals (38 percent). The Eagles started the game by hitting just three of their first 12 shots.
Just about the only things ORU did well in the first half was rebound (17-15 edge).
Otherwise, Stephen F. Austin did to Oral Roberts what it has been doing to teams all year - forcing bad shots from the perimeter. ORU hit just 21 shots in the game (36 percent).
Stephen F. Austin wasn't just another Southland game. SFA has won 14 of its first 15 games including road games at Tulsa (by 16) and Oklahoma. The Lumberjacks are inching ever closer to cracking the top 50 in the RPI.
So, this game had even more significance for the Golden Eagles, trying to gain a foothold during a roller-coaster season.
As usual, ORU played a wildly challenging December schedule including at Arizona, at Memphis and suffered big blown leads at home in losses to Oklahoma and Tulsa.
However, the Golden Eagles had rebounded to opened the league by winning their first three games, including a two-game sweep on the road at Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State.
Then, in its first Southland Conference game at home, ORU knocked Northwestern State out of a three-way tie at the top of the conference.
Stephen F. Austin gave the Eagles a reality check.
Original Print Headline: ORU taught tough lesson in defense
At Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
7:30 p.m. Thursday
ORU's Shawn Glover and Korey Billbury look at officials for a call as they fight for a loose ball during NCAA basketball action between ORU and Stephen F. Austin at ORU. JOEY JOHNSON / For the Tulsa World