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.
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.
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.
“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.