WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – When Oral Roberts came to Indianapolis for the NCAA tournament, the Golden Eagles felt it was of little importance to be a # 15 seed. They knew they would be viewed as underdogs, but the Summit League winners didn’t let any number decide their approach to Ohio State No. 2. That mentality paved the way for the Golden Eagles’ 75-72 overtime win over the Buckeyes on Friday afternoon, a surprise few predicted but fueled by one in head coach Paul Mills.
Mills knew that they would win the game. It would be difficult to convince him otherwise. He trusted his players, especially star guard Max Abmas and striker Kevin Obanor. Both played a crucial role in the result. Abmas could not be stopped in the first half and scorched the Ohio State defense with 18 points in the 5-of-7 shooting from deep.
When the Ohio State Defense took Abmas, Obanor stepped forward. He scored an impressive 20 points in the second half and combined overtime while walking 7v7 off the free throw line, including two 14.9 seconds ahead, tying the game at 64 and sending the game into overtime > A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS: 7 numbers from Oral Roberts’ shocking uproar over Ohio State No. 2
When Mills saw Obanor clutch free throws, he was referring to his early season work ethic as a source. </ "When our players get to campus, we'll ask them to take 20,000 shots and they have six weeks to do so," Mills said. “Kevin Obanor did it in six days. The 7-on-7 game from the free throw line speaks for his work ethic. "
» If your best players are your hardest workers, you stand a chance, « said Mills. « When you’re with people who have humility and work ethic … these are usually the two components that make you a really good player. »
Oral Roberts (17-10) scores in the second round of the south region on Florida. The Golden Eagles last won an NCAA tournament game in 1974, a year in which they rose to the Elite Eight and lost 93-90 in overtime to Kansas. The 1974 tournament comprised only 25 teams and was the first to be considered a Division I championship. Her only two wins in tournament history came during this run. But Mills doesn’t think much about history.
« It’s great historically, » Mills said. “But nobody thinks about that stuff here either. Not right now, how can we win this game? «
The Golden Eagles prevailed from the start and achieved a 7-0 run, which was stamped by a 24-foot-3-point jumper from Abmas. Despite the quick deficit, the Buckeyes came up with their own 10 : 0 run back. Still the Golden Eagles were calm. Abmas responded with a 3-pointer to tie it at 10 and the two had a tooth-and-nail battle until the end of the first half at the Oral Roberts took the lead 36-33.
One expected advantage the Buckeyes would have over Oral Roberts was their low presence, particularly with star striker EJ Liddell, and there wasn’t much of a difference in the first half with Ohio State led the rebound battle between 19 and 18, scoring four more points in the suit (18) than Oral Roberts, 14. At the end of the game, Ohio outperformed the Golden Eagles 49-32 to prevail in the suit 40-26 what the golden eagles did well was to generate sales; en lock the state of Ohio beyond the arc and rely on their own offensive.
« We’re the top 25 in the country when it comes to not turning it around, and the state of Ohio ranks 336th in the country, though it’s about getting sales, « said Mills. « We knew we’d get into a game where there wasn’t going to be a lot of pressure. »
With every stroke the Buckeyes took in the second half, the Golden Eagles had an answer. When it looked like the tide was about to change when the state of Ohio took the lead at 4:41 from 60:58, Abmas responded with a short drive inward to end the game. It was a constant cycle, even in overtime. As Ohio was headed for a draw, a strong defense caused several Buckeye failures.
« This is obviously a really bitter end to a great season, » said Chris Holtman, Ohio state head coach. « But this will be ours and we will move forward. »
For Mills and the Golden Eagles, expect their confidence to advance to the round of 32.
« It’s just a number at the end of the day » said Obanor. « We put on our shoes the same way the other team puts on their shoes. We came out with a lot of confidence and are just very grateful for the opportunity to win. »
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