Grading the Golden Eagles – Fort Wayne edition

Boy oh boy, you could tell Oral Roberts’ 87-83 loss to Fort Wayne stung. It was the definition of a polar opposite compared to the vibes being exuded after a 103-86 thumping of Omaha a week prior.

ORU did nearly everything well against Omaha. See the grades for yourself.

Against Fort Wayne, it continued an Indiana problem inside the Mabee Center. Against IUPUI, ORU lacked energy and execution, and against Fort Wayne the Golden Eagles staggered a little bit in the energy department early on and it hampered the execution as crucial minutes past in both halves.

The Golden Eagles found themselves in an 11-point hole with 16:46 left, but they managed to trim that to a 59-57 deficit (after a 11-2 run) in four minutes of game time. But ORU could never conquered the comeback trail until it tied the game on Jalen Bradley’s free throw with 1:19 left. One free throw later and the Golden Eagles led 80-79 with 79 seconds remaining.

But it was short-lived and ORU had to swallow another disheartening loss — the kind that continues to keep the Golden Eagles from making up ground in the Summit League standings.

“I didn’t think we played as tough as we have to play,” ORU coach Scott Sutton said. “I thought we played a little soft, to be honest.”

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Emmanuel Nzekwesi and the ORU Golden Eagles lost 87-83 to Fort Wayne on Saturday.

On to the grades…

– Jalen Bradley: B+ — It was obvious that Bradley wanted the ball down the stretch, and he deserved it, too. At times, he was strapping the Golden Eagles to his back and keeping them afloat. He finished with 17 points and 10 of those came in the second half, including five in a row on a 3-pointer to pull ORU within 79-78 and then two free throws to give ORU a one-point lead.

– Albert Owens: B- — Owens’ streak of 20-point games continued to eight, but it was far from his best game during that run. Owens was terrific, for the most part, in Wednesday’s loss to North Dakota State, but he picked up a really quick foul — 69 seconds into the game — against Fort Wayne, and perhaps that messed with his mindset.

After that, he missed some shots that he’s been making around the basket, and his missed shots created a trickle-down effect to the rest of his teammates.

Also, Owens had zero rebounds at halftime, and he finished with four. I think that’s the one area of Owens’ game where he should be cleaning house, but then there are games like Saturday where he manages to grab fewer than a handful of rebounds.

– Bench: B- — Aaron Young and Darian Harris — ORU’s only two bench players to log any time against Fort Wayne — combined for 18 points, but only five of those came in the second half. I thought Young and Harris provided some solid energy, but there were some issues late. See further down…

– Kris Martin: D- — Martin not scoring in ORU’s game at Fort Wayne was shocking enough. But for him not to score AGAIN versus Fort Wayne, that’s mind-boggling. It wasn’t for a lack of trying since Martin threw up some early shot attempts, but the shots just didn’t go in.

A microcosm of the day was when Sutton subbed Martin out only one minute and 44 seconds into the second half, and Martin headed to the bench with a puzzled look on his face and his palms facing upward. Sutton had no choice but to go with Young, who appeared to be a better scorer on the day.

“He’s one of the best scorers in the league,” ORU guard Aaron Anderson said of Martin. “He’s like my little brother, but he just has to come ready to play every game.

I’d be willing to bet that Martin doesn’t have a scoreless game the rest of the season. Sometimes, players just have those games, and what’s unfortunate for ORU is that if Martin scores a modest eight to 12 points, the Golden Eagles probably win that game.

“I don’t know what was wrong with K-Mart,” Sutton said. “K-Mart is a great scorer, and this is his second game in a row against these guys where he hasn’t scored. That’s just almost…I can’t believe it.”

– Late-game execution: D — Fort Wayne’s Brent Calhoun scored a go-ahead basket to give the Mastodons an 81-80 lead, and ORU had a chance to come right back and score after a 30-second timeout.

The Golden Eagles passed the ball around, and they were looking for the best option. That’s when Darian Harris threw up a 3-pointer from the right wing, and Fort Wayne’s John Konchar got a fingertip on it for the block. The ball cascaded down into Mo Evans’ hands, and the Golden Eagles fouled him, sending him to the free throw line where he buried both foul shots.

Harris scored all eight of his points in the first half, but his confidence in the second half compared to the first is night and day. Harris usually becomes a facilitator in the final 20 minutes, and finding Bradley or Young in that situation would have been more ideal if you wanted to go the 3-point route. Or, Owens and Emmanuel Nzekwesi had succeeded in scoring inside the perimeter, so that could have been another plausible option.

“Have to make plays down the stretch,” Sutton said. “Their guys did it and we didn’t.”

– Energy: D- — It appeared like the IUPUI game was on repeat for periods of the first half. That should have been the first red flag in the ultimate outcome of the game.

Asked if the effort is there from everyone on the roster right now, Anderson simply said, “no.” That was it.

– Rebounding: F — This goes back to the Indiana issue inside the Mabee Center. IUPUI out-rebounded ORU by 11 (36-25) earlier in January, and Fort Wayne enjoyed a 13-rebound (39-26) on Saturday. Think of it this way: Konchar was only out-rebounded by ORU by 12, and he’s only one singular person. Mix in Konchar’s teammates and it was a mismatch on the glass.

– Chris Miller’s value: A — Miller may only average 3.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game while playing 11.3 minutes, but wow are those value numbers off the bench. ORU, without having Miller, seemed severely out-manned, despite Miller’s rather pedestrian numbers. Goes to show how much Owens values a few breathers here and there throughout a game.

– Accounting for Konchar: D- — Konchar was on pace for a triple-double at halftime with six points, nine rebounds and five assists. He fell short of that, but he is undoubtedly the best 6-foot-5 player in the league. The guy can do it all.

“He pushes that envelope every night,” Fort Wayne coach Jon Coffman said of Konchar, who had 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists against ORU. “…Where he’s really special is Mo, in two games in a row, has picked up two fouls early in the first half. But I can take John, who starts as our power forward, and move him to point guard, and he can play anything in between. That is pretty special.”

Up next: Semi-quick turnaround with Denver at the Mabee Center on Tuesday night. Pioneers have played solid basketball in league play, so the Golden Eagles have no choice but to flush the Fort Wayne game out of their memory banks.

Grading the Golden Eagles – Omaha edition

Tra-Deon Hollins made his final appearance in Tulsa when Omaha departed northeast Oklahoma with a 103-86 loss to Oral Roberts on Saturday. If you didn’t make it a point to go watch Hollins, you missed out. Hollins is pure entertainment every time he steps on the basketball court.

And he amplified that against ORU with a career-high 33 points to go along with nine assists and eight rebounds. ORU coach Scott Sutton was none too pleased that his players allowed Hollins to get hot, but I thought the Golden Eagles did a good job eliminating other threats from Marcus Tyus and Tre’Shawn Thurman.

Bottom line, if you missed the Tra-Deon Hollins Show, that’s your loss. Luckily for you, Fort Wayne comes to town Saturday with John Konchar being nearly as entertaining.

Now, on to the ORU grades vs. Omaha…

– Shooting early: D — It wasn’t pretty for either team early on. The only players who were able to score in the early stages of the game were ORU’s Jalen Bradley and Hollins. Outside of that, it was mostly missed shots all over the place.

“I kept telling the guys, ‘we’re going to make some shots,’” Sutton said. “We were getting some good looks, and we missed some easy ones. I wasn’t concerned about our scoring.”

And for good reason…

– Final 25 minutes: A — The Golden Eagles started to drain some shots around the time of the final media timeout in the first half. They didn’t cool off until the final buzzer sounded.

In the second half alone, ORU shot 58.1 percent (18 of 31) from the field. The Golden Eagles also protected the basketball and only turned it over five times in the final 20 minutes.

– Albert Owens: A — Basically just repeat here what has been said about Owens since the calendar flipped to 2017. He’s been a consistent force inside for the Golden Eagles, and he churned out a career high 28 points against Omaha.

“Albert was dominant after the first four or five minutes,” Sutton said of Owens, who knocked down 11 of 19 field goals after missing his first six attempts.

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Owens throws down a dunk for two of his 28 points against Omaha on Saturday.

Last season, Owens combined for only 10 points in two games against Omaha — a team that has caused Owens fits because of its up-tempo nature. But he clearly isn’t having any problems against anyone in the Summit League right now.

“He’s such a different player this year,” Sutton said of Owens. “He’s worked hard, and he’s playing with a ton of confidence.”

– Offense: A- — If not for the game’s first 7 to 10 minutes, this would be an easy “A” or “A-plus” for the Golden Eagles. Offensive efficiency through the roof.

Kris Martin had 26 points, Bradley had 24 and Emmanuel Nzekwesi had 13 points to go along with 12 rebounds.

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ORU’s Jalen Bradley scored 24 points against his former club in the Golden Eagles’ 103-86 win over Omaha.

Those four players — if they are consistently hitting shots — provide ORU with an arsenal of offensive weapons that is hard to account for.

– Player grades: A+ — I asked Owens and Martin after the game to grade ORU’s performance against South Dakota and Omaha, and they were both honest.

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Kris Martin scored 26 points and was one of three 20-point scores for the Golden Eagles in a 103-86 win over Omaha on Saturday. It was the first time ORU had three 20-point scorers since 2011.

“The first half of the South Dakota game we started slow, but we stepped up in the second half,” Martin said. “Together, I’ll give us an ‘A.’ We came out with a win and protected our home court (in both games).”

Owens was a little more critical.

“Honestly, I’d have to say the South Dakota game was a ‘B,’” he said. “We won but we let that game get a lot closer than it should have been. (Against Omaha), I’d say that’s an ‘A,’ because we did what (the coaching staff) asked us to do, except for on Tra-Deon.”

That deserves an A-plus for honesty.

– Defense: C+ — Look, I think we can all agree that ORU isn’t going to be creating any kind of instructional videos from this season on how to play defense. The Golden Eagles are ranked 323rd nationally in allowing an average of 80 points per game.

That’s just the way it goes, and truth be told, ORU probably won’t get much better than the 250th best team in terms of scoring defense.

But the Golden Eagles can spend the rest of the season going for steals and coming up with spurts of solid defense. If they are able to do that, then Owens, Bradley, Martin and Nzekwesi should be able to come up with enough offense to produce wins.

ORU got hammered by Hollins, but things came difficult for every other Omaha player. And that’s close to the recipe ORU can follow the rest of the year.

– Bench play: C- — The five reserves that played (Aaron Young, Darian Harris, Dezmond McDaniel, Isaac Gilliam and Chris Miller) produced only eight points, you’d like to see a little more than that from this group. But Harris and Miller did grab a combined seven rebounds, and overall this group did enough to spell the ORU starters who had a chance to rest and then come back in and score at will, basically.

– Game photos: A++ — If you haven’t had a chance to check out Ian Maule’s photo gallery from the game – http://www.tulsaworld.com/photovideo/slideshows/photo-gallery-oru-vs-omaha/collection_e0cc1afe-879f-5584-adab-26302cf10a05.html – don’t waste any more time and click on the link. Seriously, click on anything hyperlinked here, and you won’t be disappointed.

 

Up next: A tough test awaits ORU at North Dakota State for a midweek league game.

Grading the Golden Eagles — South Dakota edition

Maximizing his minutes is exactly what Chris Miller did in Oral Roberts’ 90-80 win over South Dakota on Wednesday. The freshman from Booker T. Washington logged nine minutes, and he scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds during that time.

It’s a small sample size, but Miller is gaining a comfort on the court for the Golden Eagles. ORU coach Scott Sutton mentioned how Miller has slimmed down, and going against Albert Owens in practice has surely helped.

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Chris Miller had eight points against South Dakota in a 90-80 win on Wednesday night at the Mabee Center.

Now here’s my hope: That we see Owens, Miller and Emmanuel Nzekwesi on the floor all at once. The Summit League is built upon guards heaving up 3-point shots, but having three guys — who all tower about 6 feet, 7 inches — on the court would tip the scales of normalcy in the conference. I’m not talking about anything for long lengths of time, but it was be fun to see the Golden Eagles try and out-size their opponent.

Sutton did admit that playing Owens and Miller has crossed his mind.

“It certainly crossed my mind with Emmanuel and Darian (Harris) picked up some fouls and got into foul trouble in the first half,” Sutton said. But, no such luck in the end.

Now on to the grades…

– First half: C- — Dezmond McDaniel didn’t play much against South Dakota, but he came off the bench and drained a 3-pointer with 8:23 left in the opening half. That shot put ORU in front 30-20, and the Golden Eagles seemed to be in control in the opening half.

Then the pendulum swung — and it swung hard.

South Dakota scored 21 of the half’s final 29 points, and six of ORU’s eight points came from Albert Owens, who didn’t let South Dakota run away with a big lead.

– Final 15 minutes: A- — As bad as the final 8-plus minutes were to end the first half for ORU, the final 15 minutes of the game were the complete opposite. I thought, for sure, the game would come down to a final possession or two since that’s how South Dakota has performed to this point, but the Golden Eagles made sure that didn’t happen. ORU went on a 27-8 run and flipped the game in its favor.

“In the second half, we finally played, in my opinion, with the type of intensity we have to play with,” Sutton said. “We weren’t great defensively in the second half, but I thought our guys competed and played with intensity. That helps your offense.”

Great segue…

– ORU guards (Aaron Anderson, Jalen Bradley and Kris Martin): B- — It was a forgettable first half for ORU’s backcourt. Anderson, Bradley and Martin shot a combined 3 of 10 for eight points in the opening 20 minutes. That invoked a direct message from the coaching staff at halftime.

“We challenged them at halftime,” Sutton said, who also included Aaron Young among the group that needed to rise to the occasion in the second half. “They were the biggest difference in the game in the second half. That’s the best I’ve seen Deuce (Anderson) play.”

Aside from three rebounds and one assist in the first half, Anderson did all of his damage in the second half with 20 points and 10 rebounds, which gave him his first double-double.

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Aaron Anderson registered his first double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds in ORU’s win over South Dakota.

Anderson finished 6 of 8 from the floor and 6 of 7 from the free throw line. Bradley and Martin finished with eight and nine points, respectively.

– Aaron Young: B+ — I’ll never not enjoy watching Young play. From his tenacity on defense to him taking out his mouthpiece and glaring at no one in particular while hyping himself up in his mind. It’s a joy to watch.

And his absence in the home loss to IUPUI was noticeable. But he returned, after clearing concussion protocol, and played 26 minutes against South Dakota, scoring nine points in the process. He is, for sure, the sixth man that ORU counts on.

“He’s another starter,” Sutton said of Young, an Edmond Memorial product. “He could easily be starting right now, and he’s started a bunch in his career. And he gives us one of our two best perimeter defenders.”

– Owens: A — If you haven’t come out to watch Owens yet, you’re missing out. While he lacks the essence and charisma of “Big Smooth” Sam Perkins or the scoring abilities of Wilt Chamberlain, Owens is becoming his own unique force in the middle for ORU.

Owens, with 21 points against South Dakota, has now scored 20-plus points in five straight game, averaging 22.8 points per game during that span. And the double teams that opponents are hurling at him aren’t getting to him much at all (two turnovers combined in the last two games).

“He demands double teams, and again I’ll keep saying this: Our best offense is getting him the ball and letting him make good decisions out of the post,” Sutton said. “He’s going to get our guys wide open shots.”

Owens’ biggest challenge will be producing Saturday against Omaha, a team that held him to 10 combined points in two games last season.

Update: Guard Jontray Harris will miss the remainder of the season after sustaining a recent foot injury. Look for McDaniel to get more minutes off the bench, or perhaps an uptick in Young’s time on the floor.

Grading the Golden Eagles — IUPUI edition

Well, just when it appeared that Oral Roberts was gaining its sea legs after a nomadic start to conference play, the Golden Eagles go and play uninspired against an IUPUI team that is far from a juggernaut.

“This team, for us to have any success, they have to have a chip on their shoulder,” ORU coach Scott Sutton said. “…They have to play desperate because we’re a desperate team.

“…We were going to be in all right shape and one game back of second place (with a win), but (IUPUI) played like a desperate team and we didn’t.”

 

Now, on to the grades…

– Urgency: D+ — The game, for 32 to 35 minutes, put off a vibe of “let’s get this thing to halftime and reassess where we’re.” Here’s where that gets problematic: The first half is only 20 minutes long.

Neither team really could be bothered to show much interest until the game was inside the final eight minutes. IUPUI led by as many at 11 with 6:14 left, and that’s about the time ORU kicked things into gear to try and make a last-ditch effort.

It was too late, though.

“We waited 36 or 37 minutes until we started playing desperate basketball,” Sutton said. “It was too late.”

 

– Rebounds/Hustle: C- — IUPUI is far from a big team, but the Jaguars managed to out-rebound ORU 36-25 with 14 of those being the offensive variety for IUPUI. The Jaguars cashed those in for 16 second-chance points.

“They beat us to loose balls, beat us to offensive rebounding — out-toughed us,” Sutton said. “Not much else to say.”

 

– Defense: F+ — We’ll go F-plus for this exercise, because a F-minus might as well be players being stationary and not attempting to guard anyone. But the Golden Eagles at least tried to put hands in faces of shooters.

But the Jaguars still managed to shoot 54.8 percent (34 of 62) from the field and 11 of 22 from beyond the 3-point arc. And D.J. McCall, who is far from an elite scoring machine, made 21 points look like a breeze.

“Awful,” Sutton said, summing up his defense with one singular adjective. “It’s awful.”

Sutton also made a great point when he noted that IUPUI was held to 56 points last year at the Mabee Center, and how many of those same ORU players are back this year. So what changed?

“They had 55 in the game last year,” Sutton said “We gave up 50 in the first half (Saturday). Can’t contain the basketball, no help and … there’s just no carry over (from practice).”

 

– Late-game execution: C — This is a “high” grade because of Kris Martin throwing the team on his back and nearly pulling off a stupendous comeback. But Aaron Anderson’s isolation drive to the rim with 30 seconds left and ORU down three (86-83) was not ideal.

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“We wanted to get something to the rim,” Sutton said.

Check.

“We didn’t think we had to settle for a 3,” Sutton said.

Another check.

“(IUPUI’s Matt O’Leary) made a nice play,” Sutton said of O’Leary’s block that all but sealed the game.

Crushing.

And given Martin’s shooting temperature at the time (red hot), having him create off the dribble might have been more ideal. But again, kudos to O’Leary because it was a solid block.

 

Martin/Owens/Jalen Bradley: B+ — Because of ORU’s record, the production from these guys is probably not getting noticed. But they are playing really well.

Martin is coming into his own as a sophomore. Owens is becoming a legitimate force in the middle. Bradley is proving to be a consistent scorer and solid distributor.

The three combined for 63 points and 21 of 42 shooting in the game. Hard to turn down those numbers on a nightly basis.

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Crowd: D — Look, ORU crowds aren’t what they used to be. We all get that. But the Hall of Fame game has always generated a decent crowd the past several years — or least it seemed to. Only 2,595 were announced for Saturday’s game against IUPUI.

Maybe the weather played a role. Maybe people wanted to watch NFL playoff games. Who knows. All I know is not many people showed up, and the ones that did took cues from both teams and didn’t get emotionally invested until the final four to five minutes.

 

Up next: ORU continues at home against an upstart South Dakota team on Wednesday.

Grading the Golden Eagles – South Dakota State edition

It was quite the unusual script in ORU’s 94-88 victory over South Dakota State on Thursday night.

First off, if offense is your thing, the first half was created especially for you; Points aplenty and both teams on track for right at the 100-point mark. But, naturally, things cooled off a bit in the second half.

The Golden Eagles built up to an 11-point lead, and then they watched it dissolve in short order. Then reserve extraordinaire Darian Harris of all people found himself at the free line with the game tied at 83 and 86 seconds left. He drained both and ORU found its footing again and held off the Jackrabbits.

Now, on to the grades…

– Defense: D+ — If the grade is solely based on the first half, it would have been a F-minus-minus. But neither team put forth much defense effort in the first half. Luckily for the Golden Eagles, they were hitting shots.

“If you guys came to see a defensive struggle, you were in the wrong arena,” ORU coach Scott Sutton said. “That wasn’t very good defense.”

The amount of open looks South Dakota State had at all times was staggering. The term “pitching a tent” applies to amount of time the Jackrabbits were afforded while shooting from the corners.

“You have to give (South Dakota State) credit,” Sutton said. “I thought early every time we made a mistake, they made us pay. They stepped up and made shots.”

– Killer instinct: C- — The Golden Eagles had an 81-70 lead in the second half, but it evaporated thanks to a 13-2 run by South Dakota State. In years past, ORU teams found a way to bury a visiting opponent like that in the Mabee Center.

“I am disappointed, especially at home, when you build an 11-point lead, you need to put a team away,” Sutton said. “We didn’t do that. But give them credit because they kept fighting.”

–  Albert Owens: A- — I’ll be honest, I thought Owens might find it hard to score against South Dakota State’s 1-3-1 zone. I was way off.

Owens finished with 26 points, two off his career high, and nine rebounds. He was a force inside early, and he set the tone for ORU’s 50 points in the first half.

And Owens’ explanation of how the 1-3-1 zone offered him basically a 1-on-1 matchup inside is something I guess I hadn’t considered. But Owens did move pretty freely inside, and his teammates did a good job of getting him the ball in space.

“He was aggressive, and we talked about him sealing and posting up hard,” Sutton said of Owens. “Thought he did a good job offensive rebounding, and he had six tonight. He did a good job of finishing around the basket.”

There were a couple of times where South Dakota State’s Mike Daum broke Owens down off the dribble, but Daum will do that to just about any player in the league.

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Albert Owens goes up for a shot against South Dakota State’s Mike Daum in ORU’s 94-88 win on Thursday night. Owens finished with 26 points.

 

– Limiting foul trouble: A — Aaron Anderson fouled out, sure, but ORU did a good job of minimalizing the impact of each foul. The Golden Eagles didn’t foul a South Dakota State shooter until the 12:51 mark of the second half, and the Jackrabbits only took 12 foul shots total.

Daum entered as the nation’s top free-throw attempter. He exited the building only having taken two free throws.

Free throw shooting: A+ — ORU went 23 of 24 from the foul line. I’d say that’s about as good as you could get.

In a league game two years ago, the Golden Eagles went 12 of 12 from the free throw line at South Dakota. But the Golden Eagles took double the amount of free throws and made 95.8 percent. That’s impressive.

Side note: 95.8 percent ranks sixth best in a game in ORU history. Three times ORU has nailed 100 percent of its free throws (when attempting 10 or more): 2015 vs. South Dakota, 1975 vs. Southern California (made 15) and 2012 vs. Arizona (made 12).

Sharing the basketball: A — Hard to ask more of a team when it distributes 23 assists and only commits seven turnovers. That’s putting a premium on possessing the basketball.

“We did a great job offensively in getting 23 assists,” Sutton said. “Pleased obviously, offensively.”

Anderson had seven assists, and Jalen Bradley added six.

– Emmanuel Nzekwesi: B+ — After not logging more than 21 minutes since Dec. 14, Nzekwesi played 26 minutes and had 14 points and five rebounds against South Dakota State.

“I thought he was more confident tonight,” Sutton said. “It helps when he comes down and hits his first shot.

“Again, he was having to guard some perimeter players on the other team. He started off against (Reed) Tellinghuisen, and he didn’t do a bad job.”

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Emmanuel Nzekwesi guards South Dakota State’s Reed Tellinghuisen during Thursday night’s game at the Mabee Cetner. Nzekwesi finished with 14 points for the Golden Eagles.

 

 

Jontray Harris: B — Harris played 13 minutes and scored six points, and those were much needed with Aaron Young out with a concussion.

“He had a couple of breakdowns, but you can expect that from a first-year player who hasn’t played a ton of minutes this year,” Sutton said of Harris.

Quick note for Saturday: Sutton said Young’s status for Saturday against IUPUI is unknown, and that he has to pass the concussion protocol to be able to play.

Promotional staff: B+ — Kudos to the promotional staff at ORU in figuring out how to lure students into coming to the game: free parking.

Nothing stings more when you’re a college kid then getting slapped with some sort of remedial parking violation. You have to pay a fine, and money is obviously a precious commodity for all college students. Plus you have to take the time to either fight the citation, or trek to the parking office and get it taken care of.

The whole process is burdensome, time-consuming and unfortunate — all because you slipped into a vacant staff spot in attempt to grab a coffee before class.

But fear not, ORU students. The promotional staff for ORU games is awarding free parking passes to students, if they happen to be the lucky recipient of the drawing held every game. Gotta say, I would have welcomed those drawings while at Oklahoma State.

Also, having a guy play charades  with the student section giving clues is pretty good. Too bad the buy bombed on guessing “air guitar” and “airplane.” Better luck next time.

 

Up next: ORU is home Saturday against IUPUI at 3 p.m.

Lippe’s football legacy should carry on

Turn off Main Street and head south on Warrior Avenue. In the amount of time it takes to reposition your hands on the steering wheel, you’ll see Gene Winfield Stadium on your right.

Home of the Adair Warriors.

The stadium showcases the name of school district’s first superintendent. The road leading up to the stadium bears the mascot of the school.

Now it’s time to give the playing surface a proper name: Mark Lippe Field.

And, who knows, Lippe himself could make that his first order of business when he becomes Adair’s fourth superintendent in the school district’s history. It was decided this week by Adair’s school board that Lippe would take the reins of superintendent on July 1, taking over for current superintendent Tom Linihan, who has served in that role for 21 years.

Of course, Lippe is too humble to put his name on the natural grass turf. But somebody ought to do it.

There’s something to be said for what Lippe, 42, has done.

He may not be Adair’s winningest coach — Ken Lawson owns that distinction after compiling a 118-75-3 record over 18 seasons — but Lippe (86-15) does own Adair’s best winning percentage (.851) of any Adair coach who has coached longer than a handful of seasons. He started winning district titles in 2011, and the Warriors haven’t stop winning them since.

And more importantly, he guided Adair to the school’s first football state championship with a 70-6 pummeling of Haskell in 2015.

In 2016, Lippe — the Wyandotte graduate and University of Tulsa alum — wrapped up his coaching tenure with the Warriors by going 12-2. Adair, behind quarterback/safety B.J. Bradbury, marched its way to the Class 2A semifinals before being ousted by eventual champion Millwood.

He also split time as Adair’s high school principal. But he admitted to having to divert his attention from one or the other at all times.

“It was just becoming difficult to do the absolute best at both jobs,” Lippe told the Tulsa World. “I was always torn.”

Now, though, he can focus on duties with his new role.

“Noel E. Winfield, Jack Dryden and Tom Linihan most definitely make up the Mount Rushmore of Adair Public Schools,” Lippe said referring to Adair’s three previous superintendents. “My goal is to work tirelessly to continue their legacy and build on the foundation the outstanding educators of Adair have laid.”

The magnitude of the job is not lost on Lippe, either.

“I have a great appreciation of the fact that the parents of our community trust our school system with the most precious gift the Lord gives us in our children,” Lippe said, ever so eloquently. “That is a responsibility I take very seriously. The opportunity to influence and guide 1,000 students toward a path of success is humbling and exciting at the same time.”

When it comes to an outlook on impact, Lippe said he’s ready to hit the ground running.

“I am eager to begin working with the students, parents and staff of Adair Public Schools as we seek ways to constantly improve and move forward,” he said. “Education in our state is truly at a crossroads. My goal is to advocate for public education in our great state (while) working with fellow educators, parents and legislators to find solutions that best serve students.”

And Lippe hopes to channel his inner Martin Luther King Jr.

“Dr. King said, ‘everybody can be great because anybody can serve,’” Lippe said. “This theme symbolizes the type of impact I hope to have on Adair Public Schools. The superintendent is a servant of the community.

“My goal is to fight relentlessly for our core values every day while working to improve key areas of our school. The ultimate goal and responsibility of all employees is to ensure students not only graduate from Adair Public Schools, but also receive diplomas that truly demonstrate college and work readiness for post-secondary pursuits.”

If Lippe is able to equate his football successes to those he hopes to accomplish in the board room, Adair is in great shape. But the first order of business — before Lippe starts cranking away at Adair’s educational foundation — should be to memorialize Lippe’s accomplishments on the gridiron.

After all, Mark Lippe Field sounds pretty appropriate.

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Mark Lippe is all smiles after getting water poured on him by players in the final minute during the 2A state championship between the Adair Warriors and the Haskell Haymakers at Owasso High School on December 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of Joey Johnson/for the Tulsa World

Summit League Insider

The Oral Roberts and Summit League Insider pieces will begin running in the Tulsa World next week. So for now, this will have to hold you over…

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Aaron Anderson and ORU fell to 0-2 in Summit League play after a 102-91 loss at IPFW on Saturday. Photo courtesy of ORU Athletics

Men’s news and notes

 

  • Vroom, vroom: It didn’t take long for North Dakota State to assert itself as the Summit League favorite two games into league play. But with a road win at South Dakota State (80-69) and a home triumph over Omaha (82-70), the Bison are now in the driver’s seat in the Summit League.

Against Omaha, Paul Miller played all but one minute and led North Dakota State with 22 points. Carlin Dupree mixed in 18 points, and Dexter Werner provided 17 points and 30 minutes off the bench.

And after shooting 43.6 percent (24 of 55) from the field and 26 of 28 from the foul line, Bison coach Dave Richman found a unique way to describe his team.

“We’re a little bit like NASCAR. We’re not always the prettiest and fastest all the time, but we’ll take it.”

North Dakota State, 10-5 overall this season, will continue Summit League play at home against IUPUI Thursday.

 

  • Beaming for Billups: Denver had its moments last year under coach Joe Scott. The Pioneers avalanched Omaha and North Dakota State at Magness Arena in the Rocky Mountains, and Denver followed those wins up with a repeat performance against Omaha in the Summit League Tournament. In fact, the Pioneers were mere points away from playing for the Summit League crown, but a 54-53 loss to South Dakota State (eventual tournament victor) in the semifinals ended the Pioneers’ season — and Scott’s tenure at the mile-high school.

Enter, Rodney Billups — or maybe better known as Chauncey’s little brother.

Fourteen games into Billups’ first season as Denver’s coach, the Pioneers are 9-5 overall, 1-0 in league play and on the league’s longest winning streak of six games. Oh, and there are smiles everywhere you look in the Pioneers’ locker room.

“We smile a lot more and have fun with each other a lot more,” said sophomore guard Joe Rosga, the Pioneers’ leading scorer at 14.9 points per game. “We have a good feel for each other (and) good chemistry.”

Denver opened Summit League action with a 77-73 win over Oral Roberts, and the Pioneers will play three of their next four league games at home, including Jan. 14 at Magness Arena against North Dakota State. Could be a good chance for Denver to solidify itself atop the Summit League standings.

 

  • Hot Daum!: South Dakota’s Trey Burch-Manning put the Coyotes in position to knock off South Dakota State inside Frost Arena on Saturday with a 3-point play with 11 seconds remaining in the game. That gave South Dakota a 72-71 lead and a chance to come up with a defensive stop to beat the Jackrabbits.

Didn’t happen.

South Dakota State’s Mike Daum converted on a go-ahead layup with 2.8 seconds left, and South Dakota State prevailed with a 73-72 victory when South Dakota’s Matt Mooney half-court heave missed wayward.

“In hindsight, I wish I’d called a timeout to set up our defense,” South Dakota coach Craig Smith said. “He just made a heck of a play. We knew what was coming, (Daum) just kind of overpowered us and put it in.”

Said Daum, who had 30 points: “This one was huge — big for our morale.”

Power rankings

 

  1. North Dakota State: The pendulum seems to swing back and forth between NDSU and South Dakota State for league honors. With guys like Paul Miller and A.J. Jacobson, it might be swinging back toward the Bison this year.
  2. IPFW: Mo Evans is filling it up (18.4 points per game), and he’s got plenty of scoring help with Bryson Scott, John Konchar and Kason Harrell. The Western Illinois loss hurts, but it’s early and can be negated.
  3. South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits came dangerously close to starting league play 0-2. But with a guy like Mike Daum the losing won’t last long.
  4. Denver: The signs of a Joe Rosga break-out season were evident during his freshmen tenure last year. It’s happening this year — and along with Rodney Billups as the coach — and the Pioneers are becoming a legitimate threat in the league.
  5. South Dakota: A win at South Dakota State would have been a gigantic boost to the Coyotes moving forward. Now they have to travel to Denver to try and avoid a sub-.500 record after three league games. After that, the Coyotes will be home for five of their next six games.
  6. IUPUI: The Jaguars are one of three teams without a conference loss to this point, but it’s extremely early. IUPUI beat Western Illinois soundly, but things get amped up this week against North Dakota State and South Dakota on the road.
  7. Western Illinois: A stunning victory at IPFW gave way to being routed at IUPUI. The Leathernecks are much improved, but they’ll have to shoot the lights out to win their games, much like the IPFW game.
  8. Oral Roberts: A winnable game at Denver went by the wayside, and then IPFW ambushed the Golden Eagles to the tune of 20 3-pointer. The Golden Eagles rank last in the league in rebounding margin (minus-2.3) and scoring margin (minus-5.8).
  9. Omaha: Tre’Shawn Thurman and Tra-Deon Hollins have taken over the reins from Devin Patterson and Jake White, but that hasn’t translated to any league wins yet. Still early, though.