Oral Roberts uses defensive pressure to eliminate USD women from Summit tourney

The Golden Eagles snap a six-game losing skid with their first win over the Coyotes in 20 tries.

The 2023 Summit League Basketball Championship
South Dakota head coach Kayla Karius and senior Macy Guebert hug after a loss against Oral Roberts on Sunday, March 5, 2023 at the 2023 Summit League Basketball Championship at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Miranda Sampson / Inertia

SIOUX FALLS — Kelsi Musick knew something had to change.

The first year coach's Oral Roberts Golden Eagles entered the Summit League tournament as the No. 5 seed and on a six-game losing streak, facing a matchup that couldn't have seemed much worse for them.

ORU would open with the South Dakota Coyotes, three-time defending Summit League tournament champions and winners of 19 consecutive meetings with Musick's team.

When you haven't beaten a team in your own conference for seven years, it makes sense to try to shake things up.

So Musick devised a defensive gameplan that consisted of pressure, pressure and more pressure. From the opening tip, the Golden Eagles would harrass the Coyotes in a full-court press designed to get right in the faces of USD's players.


Yes, it would exhaust them. Yes, it would open them up to potentially easy baskets when the Coyotes succeeded in breaking the press.

But no matter what happened, Musick's team would never stop coming.

In the end, ORU's pressure forced 21 turnovers that led to 28 Golden Eagle points and a 92-69 rout Sunday at the Premier Center.

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"We came into this game saying, 'Give it your all', because we haven't played a good 40 minutes this whole season," said ORU's Hannah Cooper, who had 24 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals. "We haven't pressed the whole 40 minutes this whole season, and we had the legs to do it."

With the win, ORU advances to Monday's semifinals where they'll take on top-seeded South Dakota State. USD finishes the year 14-16, their first losing season since they went 15-16 in 2009-10.

"It was a tough day for us," said USD coach Kayla Karius. "The main goal for us offensively was to control tempo. We were able to do that against them twice this season but they had other plans today. They made the adjustment to really press us and it clearly rattled us pretty good."

Will the Eagles have the legs to hang with an SDSU team that's won 19 straight Summit League games? They just ended one 19-game winning streak. Snapping this one will be difficult, but at the very least, the Eagles proved they know how to take a gameplan and execute it virtually to perfection.

"The last time we played (USD) they really tried to slow the pace down," Musick said. "They tried to walk it up (the court) and I knew if we tried to play possession basketball that wouldn't be in our favor. We are better when we run and gun and play extremely fast.


"So we worked all week. We've had 'chaos' that we've implemented here and there, but we decided to go full-throttle because we knew we had to control the pace."

It worked, as the Coyotes appeared rattled from the jump. They had six turnovers in the first five minutes, while a handful of other passes were tipped and shots were rushed. ORU led 22-15 after a quarter and by 13 at the break.

The 2023 Summit League Basketball Championship
South Dakota's Grace Larkins drives to the basket around Oral Roberts' Ariel Walker on Sunday, March 5, 2023 at the 2023 Summit League Basketball Championship at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Dave Eggen / Inertia

At halftime in their locker room, Karius had her team collectively count to three and take a deep breath. They didn't try to make major adjustments, she just implored her team to play with more poise and confidence. They did, and quickly got within a point at 48-47. The red-clad crowd came to life, and it very much appeared that USD had weathered the storm and would take over from there to advance.

That didn't happen.

ORU quickly responded, going back up by eight only minutes later.

"I definitely felt a lot of momentum," said USD's Grace Larkins, who had 19 points and nine rebounds. "It felt awesome having our fans be there getting loud. That gave us so much momentum. It just came down to stops. We can score, but when we'd let them come right back and score it really didn't bring us anywhere. That was a little defeating."

The Yotes wouldn't mount another comeback, and ORU built their lead as high as 26 in the fourth.

"After they got that run we just got together and we were like, 'Let's go, we need to keep pushing'," Cooper said. "Keep on taking it to 'em, and that's what we did."


Carley Duffney had 19 points for USD, while Morgan Hansen had 10 and Macy Guebert had eight points, four rebounds and four assists in her final career game. Ruthie Udoumoh had 19 points for ORU (12-18), while Tirzah Moore had 13 points and eight rebounds. The Eagles shot 49.3 percent for the game and went 10-of-25 on 3s.

Now they get their semifinal shot at SDSU (26-5). The Eagles came as close as anyone to beating the Jacks, falling 83-80 in Brookings in the conference opener, though SDSU retaliated by beating them soundly (92-67) last week in Tulsa.

"Our confidence is extremely high," Udoumoh said. "We're excited. We still have a lot of energy."

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, began a long career in amateur baseball and started working as a sports freelancer. Zimmer was hired as a sport reporter at the Argus Leader in 2004, where he covered Sioux Falls high schools and colleges before moving to the South Dakota State University beat in 2014.
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