With a tough task ahead, the ORU Golden Eagle showed up to Bud Walton Arena ready to scrap against a bigger, stronger, and more athletic Razorback squad on Sunday afternoon. In their non-conference finale, they did just that…Scrap! While the Hogs claimed an 87-76 victory, Paul Mills’ squad represented the Summit League will by controlling most of the first 24 minutes of the game. In fact, Kevin Obanor’s strong effort (21pts, 10rebs, 1stl, & 1blk) earned him Summit League Player of the Week.
1st Half – ORU 40 x Arkansas 30
After a quick 6-0 start to the game by Arkansas the Golden Eagles settled in after a Kareem Thompson layup. From that point on, ORU played with better energy, grit, defense, and push in transition to eventually take their first lead of the game at the 12:28 mark off a RJ Glasper jumper. While neither team shot particularly well, the Golden Eagles started to feel some offensive rhythm a few minutes lead by Obanor, Thompson, Weaver, and Glasper, who all came up big with jumpers and free throws and gradually built their lead to 10 at the half.
Two things kept the Hogs in striking distance: the defensive emphasis on making life miserable for Max Abmas and offensive rebounding. Most of that defensive responsibility was put on lanky 6’6” guard and defensive standout, Jalen Tate, who rarely left Abmas unattended. Even with ORU ran a set or any type of motion, the Razorbacks switched all handoffs or ball screens to make sure Max was never comfortable. He did however have a clutch steal that lead to an And-1 around the 6:00 mark that stopped a mini run by Arkansas. And for what it is worth, Tate might be one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. While ORU forced contested jumpers one after another, they could not keep Arkansas’ big bodies off the glass that lead to second chance points. In fact, Eric Musselman’s crew had almost as many offensive rebounds (15) as ORU had in total rebounds to end the half (19).
2nd Half – ORU 36 x Arkansas 57
The first four minutes of the second half were much of the same as the first half. ORU still had better energy and continued to keep Arkansas at a distance with a quick score by Obanor and some big 3’s by Weaver and Thompson all before the under-16 timeout. However, something changed in the Hogs Huddle, either Coach Muss gave a great pep talk with some choice words or the players themselves found another gear, because after that point the game was entirely different. The physicality and energy completely flipped the other way as Arkansas’ depth and size showed itself to be the difference. Arkansas took their first lead (49-48) on a JD Notae layup that capped a 10-0 run. Followed by a couple minutes of back and forth action, Arkansas went on a 10-1 run that would give them the lead that they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game. During that stretch ORU’s two main floor generals, Abmas and Glasper, would pick up costly 4th Personals each that changed the pace of their offense from that point on. While they never took back the lead, both Obanor and Glasper and some scoring moments to make sure Arkansas didn’t completely run away with the game, which end in a 87-76 victory for Arkansas.
After putting on their most impressive defensive half of a game in the first, that forced Arkansas to shoot 12-40 (30%) from the field, the Hogs flipped the script and shot 20-37 (54.1%) in the second. The Razorbacks also turned up the defensive pressure by applying occasional full court pressure that lead to 10 second half turnovers by the Golden Eagles. Justin Smith was the star of the game for Arkansas by scoring 22 points and grabbing an impressive 17 rebounds. Teammate Desi Sills also joined the Double-Double Club with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Final Thoughts & Tidbits
– Oral Roberts will get a much-needed Holiday Break as they do not play again until the first weekend of Summit League back-to-backs. They will head North to Nebraska to take on Derrin Hansen’s Omaha Mavericks to start the conference slate. Both Saturday (Jan 2nd) and Sunday’s (Jan 3rd) are scheduled to tip at 7pm.
– Kevin Obanor’s “Summit League Player of the Week” was well deserved. He has continued his offensive efficiency (49% FG & 38% 3FG) and has become a terrific anchor for a team looking to challenge for the Conference Crown by posting his third Double-Double of the season.
– With that said, ORU needs some serious help at the 4-Spot. Lacis had another cold shooting game and with the uncertainty to fellow Bigs Elijah Lufile and Nate Clover III, K.O. needs a Post-Mate. DeShang Weaver has struggled against D1 competition this season but had a nice game with 11pts (3-6 on 3’s), 5rebs, and 3blks. He will most likely get most minutes at the 4 unless Coach Mills decides to play small.
– While no team in the Summit League has a Lockdown Defender like Jalen Tate, Max Abmas had his worst outing of the year having to deal with Tate most of the game. Teams in the League will look to play him similar by assigning one game to stayed glued on him while also switching on him in set plays. He is far and away the Golden Eagles most dangerous scorer so they will have to find ways to get him free. RJ Glasper could be key to that as he has shown to be a solid option as a ballhandler when Abmas needs freedom from Ball Pressure.
– I want to say this squad has the best chance to dethrone SL Heavyweights, SDSU & NDSU, from representing the Conference in The Big Dance, but their schedule has made it a difficult to properly scout them. Their 3 wins came against inferior Non-D1 competition while their 4 losses were all against Power Basketball Conference teams.