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.
“We wanted to get something to the rim,” Sutton said.
“We didn’t think we had to settle for a 3,” Sutton said.
“(IUPUI’s Matt O’Leary) made a nice play,” Sutton said of O’Leary’s block that all but sealed the game.
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.
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.