Grading the Golden Eagles – North Dakota State edition

It comes as no surprise that Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton has had plenty of restless nights the past two months. An 0-3 start on the road in Summit League play segued to what ended up being a 3-5 campaign at the Mabee Center in conference games.

In the end, the Golden Eagles wrapped up their 2016-2017 season on Wednesday with an 82-80 loss to North Dakota State, and that cemented ORU’s final record of 8-22 overall and 4-12 in league play. Needless to say, this season offered plenty of long, sleepless nights for Sutton.

“I haven’t slept very well over the last two months,” Sutton said after Wednesday’s game and hours before he was to catch a 6 a.m. flight to go recruit. “I’ll likely get a couple hours of sleep (before the flight), but it’ll be all right.”

Outside of home victories over Little Rock, Richmond (maybe the best win of the year), South Dakota State, Omaha and South Dakota, there was little revel in this year for the Golden Eagles. And Wednesday night offered much of the same script for ORU: Play decently enough to win but watch as the opponent becomes opportunistic and cashes in on crucial plays.

For the final time, I’ll pass out some grades from the season’s final game. And in the coming days, I’ll pass out overall season grades.

So let’s get to it…

– Vegas oddsmakers: A+ —Somehow the oddsmakers just knew ORU’s Isaac Gilliam would knock down a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the game. The Bison owned an 82-77 lead before Gilliam closed out the Golden Eagles’ season with a long trey.

That meant the oddsmakers hit the game’s final spread right on the nose: North Dakota State by two. And sure enough, that’s what happened.

If people bet on the Bison to cover the spread, they had to be absolutely furious with how the final seven seconds played out (Gilliam receives the inbounds pass, North Dakota State players back way off and Gilliam buries a long 3-pointer between the top of the key and right wing).

– Albert Owens: B+ — In the process of becoming one of the best inside scorers in the Summit League, Owens recorded his 14th 20-point game of the season. He finished with 23 points on 9 of 16 shooting.

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ORU’s Albert Owens (44) had 23 points and nine rebounds against North Dakota State on Wednesday.

Owens, for the fifth time in his career, matched a career high with nine rebounds. I’d bet money he has at least one game of 10 rebounds next season.

Owens finished just shy of an “A” because his shot attempt to tie the game at 79 with 45 seconds left  was blocked by North Dakota State’s Dexter Werner, who made a solid play on the ball.

But after Werner got the best of Owens in Fargo in January, Owens responded with a  solid game to close the season out.

– Rebounding: D — Look, North Dakota State is not a great rebounding team. The Bison are barely on the plus side when it comes to rebounding margin this year (0.2). But North Dakota State out-rebounded ORU 45-35, and that just can’t happen.

Where ORU probably got lucky was that North Dakota State only had 7 second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds.

– Kris Martin: C- — Martin had things rolling through the month of January, and you could see him becoming one of the better scorers in the league. But a scoreless effort against Fort Wayne on Jan. 28 sent him sputtering toward the finish line.

Martin had 3 points on 1 of 6 shooting against North Dakota State, so in his final three games of the season he had a combined 17 points.

I fully expect Martin to be an offensive force for the Golden Eagles during his junior campaign next year.

– Aaron Young/Aaron Anderson/Jalen Bradley/Darian Harris/Isaac Gilliam: B — Solid outing from the seniors (and Harris, a junior) on their way out. You have to feel for Harris, who has labored through knee issues for months now; I’m sure that hasn’t been easy.

Young, Anderson and Bradley all scored in double figures for their final games, but I’m sure they would have traded those efforts for a win.

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Isaac Gilliam (12), Aaron Young (0), Aaron Anderson (13), Darian Harris (33) and Jalen Bradley (10) were recognized following the game.

– Mabee Center: D- — This isn’t on the promotional staff, because I loved a lot of what they did this year, and I even lauded them after one of the earlier conference games.

This falls squarely on the people who run the Mabee Center … what in the world happened on Wednesday? The intro music was full of old-school Jock Jams (not terrible, but not the same as it’s been all year). And the sound system was a complete debacle, with a floor speaker, I’m guessing, being utilized as the only way to hear public address announcer Mike Canada. It was a fiasco.

And the pregame fireworks haven’t been a problem all year, that I’ve noticed. But the ones on Wednesday seemed to offer a fog that hung over the Mabee Center floor for a lot of the first half.

Just a complete mess.

Up next: The offseason. Thanks for reading along this season. Be on the lookout for final season grades before too long.

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