Oral Roberts edges South Dakota State to complete perfect Summit League men's basketball season
The Jackrabbits suffer just their fourth loss in last 80 home games.
BROOKINGS — One year after South Dakota State became the first men's team to go undefeated in Summit League conference play, Oral Roberts became the second, as the Golden Eagles nipped the Jackrabbits 69-65 on Saturday at Frost Arena to complete the series sweep of SDSU and finish the regular season 18-0 against the Summit League and 26-4 overall.
The Eagles led most of the way, including by double digits at times, but the Jackrabbits were within two with 15 seconds left after a 3-pointer by Matt Mims.
After Max Abmas answered with two free throws, Zeke Mayo scored with 6.6 seconds left to again get SDSU within two, but the Eagles got it in to Abmas once more, who again hit two at the line to ice the win.
The Jacks held Abmas — the Summit League's scoring leader at 22.3 points per game — to just 12 points on 2-of-10 shooting. They also held ORU to 16 fewer points than their average.
It wasn't enough, and the reason was clear: SDSU turned the ball over 15 times, which led to 17 ORU points. The Jacks outshot the Eagles 42 percent to 36 percent, but the points off turnovers plus an 18-8 ORU scoring edge at the line spelled just the fourth home loss in the last 80 home games for SDSU.
ORU bookended its run through the Summit with wins over the Jacks, but the second looked much different than the first. SDSU lost 79-40 in Tulsa back in December. This time, in front of a raucous crowd of 4,207, the Jacks and Eagles staged a mid-major classic, and while SDSU fell short, it felt like a precursor to a potentially heated Summit League tournament rematch.
"What a fun game," said Jacks coach Eric Henderson. "Congratulations to Coach (Paul) Mills and their team. Going undefeated is not an easy task as we well know. With the pressure that they had, to come in here to a tough environment to get the win - I give them a lot of credit."
Matt Dentlinger had 23 points for SDSU, despite the fact he was matched up with ORU's 7-foot-5 center Connor Vanover. Dentlinger went right at the former Arkansas Razorback - at one point making nine of 10 field goals over Vanover's incredible wingspan. But other than that the SDSU offense struggled for much of the day. Shot selection wasn't always ideal, and while some of the turnovers were due to ORU's defense, many were self-inflicted.
"That's really what got us tonight," said Mayo, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds. "Turnovers killed us. They got out in transition and got easy buckets. Honestly I think it was us making mental mistakes. Instead of making the easy play we tried to force some things."
Said Henderson: "We probably tried to play a little too fast at times. We wanted to pick up the tempo. We knew we'd have to score some because they're a very good offensive team. But they're a good defensive team, too. I think we just got sped up a little bit (and) that caused a few turnovers we normally haven't made, at least in the last month or so. It probably cost us the game at the end of the day."
Vanover had 14 points to lead the Eagles, while Carlos Jurgens had 12 and Kareem Thompson and Isaac McBride had 11 each.
The Jacks finish the regular season 18-12 and 13-5 in league play. They had a seven game winning streak before Saturday's loss, and Henderson and Mayo both made it clear that even in defeat, this was not the kind of loss that saps their momentum. This team has been playing with confidence for the last six weeks, and they insisted that confidence would still be there no matter what happened on Saturday.
But if there is a rematch in Sioux Falls, the Jacks served notice in this one that the Eagles' 18-0 regular season does not mean the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament is a formality for ORU.
"The first time we played them - that wasn't who we are," said Mims, who had 10 points Saturday. "We were still trying to find our identity. We definitely wanted to play them again, and I'm really excite for what we've got coming up next week."