Coming off an up-and-down weekend at Home against North Dakota, splitting the Series with the Fighting Hawks, the Golden Eagles would look to have a crisper weekend offensively on the road versus last place Denver. On paper the match-up against the Pioneers would appear to be easy pickings and a clean sweep, however, ORU had yet to experience victory in the Mile-High Climate versus Denver in past matchups. In fact, Denver has proven to be a tricky foe for the Golden Eagles, as the Pioneers hold a 10-6 edge in their All-Time Match-Up history. Behind a strong scoring performance in Game 1 by Max Abmas, a strong scoring performance in Game 2 by Kevin Obanor, and steady play from RJ Glasper, DeShang Weaver, Carlos Jurgens, and Kareem Thompson, the Eagles would sweep the weekend and improve their record to 8-6 (5-1 SLC).
Game 1 – ORU 88 x Denver 84
Due to an odd schedule change (Friday’s Tip was 1pm CST) and the fact the most obscure team in the league does not allow free view of their home game, lots of fans and writers missed out on a Back-and-Forth game that ended in the Golden Eagles fending off a furious last-minute rally by the Hosts. The game even started with back-and-forth action as the teams traded buckets before the Pioneers went on an 8-0 run to build an early 13-8 lead capped by a Taelyr Gatlin Three. As he often does, RJ Glasper would be the run breaker with a three of his own to kickstart a 12-2 run by the Eagles. Unfortunately for ORU, Kevin Obanor would pick up his 2nd Personal Foul during the run, in which he would sit the remainder of the half. Obanor was dominating the glass at that point with 6 rebounds in the first 10 minutes of the game. Outside of an 8-0 Denver run where they would grab a 37-36 lead, ORU would respond well without their star Big Man with a balanced effort across the board from Paul Mills squad, led by a 10-point burst from Max Abmas in the final 9:27 of the half. The Eagles would take a 45-44 lead into the locker room.
Max would get the half started scoring 2 of his 18 second half points about a minute in that would spring a competitive high scoring first 14 minutes of the 2nd Half. Both teams would trade buckets throughout the time frame with neither team gaining much of an advantage on the other. With under 6:00 to go and the score at 70-68 in ORU’s favor, the Golden Eagles would use a 12-2 run over a four-minute stretch to hold an 81-70. The game would appear to be all but over, but Denver’s Jase Townsend would have other plans. With just over a minute to go, he would lead the last-ditch effort scoring 12 points to threaten the Golden Eagles with their second straight Friday Summit League loss, but 4 clutch Free Throws by R.J. Glasper would make the difference in ORU securing an 88-84 road victory. The win would mark the first time ORU has ever beat Denver in Denver.
Abmas would lead ORU with 34points 5rebounds 5assists while K.O. would add 11 points and 8 rebounds while dealing with foul trouble. Both Glasper & Weaver would reach double figures scoring 14 and 12 points, respectively. Jase Townsend would lead the Pioneers with 27 points and Sam Hines Jr. would add a Double-Double (14 pts 10rebs).
Game 2: ORU 91 x Denver 82
We would see another high scoring affair between both squads, but this time around was with far fewer dramatics as ORU would start off with a 7-0 run behind a Kareem Thompson 3pt and a nifty reverse put-back for 2pt. The Golden Eagles would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game. After a converted ‘And-1’ by Sam Hines Jr., the Eagles would push their lead to 12-3 behind a couple buckets from Obanor. Then the lead would increase to 20-11 after a Francis Lacis 2pt. Denver would respond with Javonni Bickham converting an ‘And-1’ of his own that would also put Obanor at 2 Personals and would send him to the bench for the remainder of the half. A Roscoe Eastmond 3pt would tie the game at 21-All. In Obanor’s absence, Nate Clover would step up on the defensive end in key reserve minutes with 3 blocked shots and a steal during the final 9:52. After Obanor’s exit, ORU would retake the lead and push it to 29-21 with under 4:00 to go in the half. After the final Media Timeout, ORU would use their defense of all things, to keep pushing their lead. A BIG 3pt by Jurgens, followed by a steal and layup by Glasper, and a steal and Dunk by Jurgens, the Eagles would go to the Locker Room with a 38-26 lead.
After sitting 9-plus minutes, Obanor would come out strong in the second half scoring a quick 5 points. Following a couple runs by both teams, Obanor would cash in at the Charity Stripe for 2 more point to push ORU’s lead to 49-44. While his perimeter shooting was not its usual self this weekend, Mid-Court Max would hit a transition 3pt from the Center Court Logo to push the lead to 11. After a Denver Free-Throw, Obanor would score again, this time with a Big 2-Handed Slam to put the score at 62-50. The Pioneers would chip into the lead as both teams would do some “Healthy” Scoring over the next few minutes. A Jase Townsend 3pt would get Denver within 4 (84-80) with under a minute to go, but the Golden Eagles would rely on their excellent and clutch Free-Throw shooting to close out the game shooting 7/8 from the stripe for a final score of 91-82.
Obanor would bounce back from a tough Friday Night to lead ORU with 24 points and 6 rebounds while Abmas would add 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. Glasper and Thompson would add 15 points each to round out the double figure scoring. Townsend would lead Denver again with 35 points and 5 rebounds while Hines Jr. would add another Double-Double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Final Thoughts & Tidbits
– While Abmas struggled from deep this weekend, the team shot the ball very well! In Game 1 their shooting line was 50% FG (31-62) 50% 3pt FG (9-18) and 89.5% FT (17-19). Game 2 saw the following, 52.9% FG (27-51) 44.4% 3pt FG (8-18) and 85.3% FT (29-34). These are phenomenal numbers no matter who the opponent is and makes them as big of a threat as any team to cut down the nets in Sioux Falls. Barring another COVID Issue, ORU will test their Elite Shooting versus the Defensive Savvy, Kansas City Roos this weekend.
– On the Flip Side of their impressive offensive output, Defense showed again that it is a real concern. Coming into the Series Match-Up, Denver ranked last in the League in Scoring but eclipsed the 80-Point Mark in both games.
– I must apologize for not recapping Game 2 of ORU vs. UND, specifically not a big achievement by Kevin Obanor. In Game 1 he eclipsed 500 Career Rebounds and in Game 2 he eclipsed 1000 points. His combined achievement would make him the 18th Player in School history with 1000 points and 500 rebounds in a Golden Eagle Uniform.
– A new Nickname for Max Abmas? Mid-Court Max is really starting to stick due to his ability to routinely hit 3’s from the Mid-Court Logo, but he also played ALL 80 Minutes this weekend, earning him (In My Cheesy Opinion) the name “Iron-Man Max” 😉
– If you follow my articles and tweets on ORU, there is no denying my Fandom for R.J. Glasper. This guy was not even in D1 last year and is ALWAYS a spark to the team when they need someone to get their own bucket during a drought or to stop a Run by the opponent. He is also more than just an “Energy Guy” as Coach Mills relies on him to run the show when Max needs a breather. R.J. is also a double-digit scorer on the season (10.9ppg) and is one of the last guys you want to foul in key moments (93.9% FT). Just a flat-out fun player to watch.
– DeShang Weaver is another player for teams to watch out for due to his “Instant Offense” as the team’s 6th Man. Over the past 4 Games he is averaging 10ppg off the bench and shooting 50% from deep (7-14). Last Sunday versus UND he went on a 15-0 run all by himself to push ORU’s Lead to 16 points which was a real dagger shot to the F’n Hawks.
– Selfish Take: Summit League, you really need to work out a deal with ESPN to put all Conference Games on their networks. Not being able to watch these games without paying a subscription fee to certain teams (*cough cough* Denver & SDSU) is a real pain.