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.
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.”
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.