As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I know all about long waits on seeing team success. I often tell myself that it will feel that much better when they finally win a Super Bowl. Well it has been 13 years since Oral Roberts fans felt the way they do tonight. I often wonder if the delay makes this one feel that much better.
The first half of tonight’s championship game was everything that makes Oral Roberts one of the most dangerous teams in the Summit. The Golden Eagles shot 51% from the field while holding and harassing NDSU to 22%. ORU, led by Kevin Obanor who had 17 at half, took a 25 point lead into the half.
In interesting contrasts, you had a team in North Dakota State going for their 3rd straight tournament crown and Oral Roberts who had won 6 games in the Summit League Tournament since that 2008 crown. Down 25 would the team that has been there before make a run or was ORU going to run away from it. Led by an incredibly gutty performance by Rocky Kreuser the Bison came out inspired and chipped and chipped at the lead. A Sam Griesel 3 with 17:09 left and it was 19, Kreuser layup with 11:37 14, Kreuser layup with 7:32 9, Jarius Cook layup with 4:56 5 point game. Suddenly it looked like the Bison who have done this so many times before were going to again. The Bison comeback was aided by Obanor being in foul trouble for the 3rd straight game. When asked how to avoid foul trouble in the NCAA tournament Obanor said with a smile “just not foul” and added being in better position. However, he does so Obanor being on the floor will be critical for ORU in the tournament.
However, tonight was Oral Roberts night. Much like they did last night against South Dakota State, someone would step up. Kareem Thompson hit a shot, Obanor jumper, Abmas free throws. With 15 seconds left Abmas made a free throw giving ORU a 73-72 lead, Francis Lacis blocked a Sam Griesel shot attempt and D’Mauria Jones was fouled with 2 seconds left and sank both free throws for his first points of the game. An NDSU heave was stolen by Lacis and the Golden Eagles were both literally and figuratively dancing.
Abmas led the way for Oral Roberts with 23 points and 7 assists and was named tournament MVP. Obanor added 21 and 8 rebounds. Kreuser finished with a career-high 34 points, and Tyree Eady added 15.
So 13 years later Oral Roberts players and fans get to celebrate again, as Abmas said post-game “This is all for the fans as well”. Coach Paul Mills was plentiful in his praise to both Obanor and Abmas postgame, calling them “high character guys” and “our best workers” Mills also pointed out this tournament win is a tribute to the players, their support at home, and “all that’s been invested in them”. So feeling good that support system and those fans join the ORU players in dancing.