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.
– 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.”
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.