We’ve heard the story and we still love hearing it. For the first time since 2011, our very own Golden Eagles are representing the Summit League in the men’s NCAA tournament.
They won over No. 3 seed North Dakota State with MVP Max Abmas hitting one of two at the line with 15 seconds to go, demonstrating his 91 percent free-throw aim, giving ORU a 73-72 lead. Bison still had a chance to win but with Francis Lacis’ block and steal, he gave D’Mauria Jones two free throws to ease into the win.
Many give praise to Head Coach Paul Mills for executing such a triumphant game plan such as Graduate Assistant Iain Laymon, who admires coach Mills for his work ethic and attention to detail. Laymon has been working with coach Mills since the very beginning when Mills was just announced as head coach back in 2017.
“Coach Mills is incredible! You never go into a meeting, practice or game and feel as if he is unprepared,” said Laymon. “He has done an extremely great job of getting every guy to dig a little deeper than they thought they could.”
While appreciative of the recognition, Mills gives his credit to the players.
“Coaches don’t make a shot or get a rebound. We simply invest in our players to ensure that they have every resource necessary to pursue their basketball goals,” said Mills. “Our staff is honored to coach these guys and excited for our players that they will get to experience March Madness.”
Mills knows the capabilities of the talented young men he recruited. Their humility and work ethic combined with a high care factor that turns them into great players. Laymon can’t help but agree. He has seen massive amounts of improvements from their players.
“There are so many players that took huge strides in the tournament. It really was a team effort,” said Laymon.
Even the bench has been incredible this season, “after every time out, they celebrated their teammates and did a great job of keeping positive energy on our side. I think every player, manager and staff member played a vital role in the championship!” added Laymon.
Oral Roberts has gone from anonymity to becoming the clear-cut Cinderella. If you didn’t know, the title cinderella is given to a team that has drastically changed the public’s opinion of being the “underdog” of the tournament. Oral Roberts is a No. 15 seed that has surprised the public by soaring as the tournament began. Winning 75-72 against No. 2 seeded Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, then tipping off against the Florida Gators in the second winning 81 to 78. Using the famous strategy: the one-two punch of Kevin Obanor and Abmas (26 points, seven assists) to seal the deal.
“The only players on a 15- or 16-seeded team in tournament history to score at least 50 points in their team’s first two games,” according to ESPN.
The basketball team is now placed in the regional semifinal round of the Division, also known as the Sweet 16. They will be facing off against No. 3 seed Arkansas, March 27th at 6:25 PM. According to the ESPN match predictor, Arkansas has a 92.2% chance of winning against Oral Roberts’ 7.8% chance and frankly I like those odds. These teams have already met once this season resulting in a loss to Arkansas, 87-76. But there is confidence in the statics: the Golden Eagles leading 40-30 at halftime that same game. Oral Roberts has accomplished the unexpected and as a school, we have faith they will reach the elite eight.
As the winning streak continues, our champions will continue to be placed in a controlled environment in Indiana due to COVID-19 safety measures. They’re stuck in their usual preparations for the games with practice, film and team meetings on top of taking their classes virtually. Since we’re some distance apart there’s a way to show them support and send some prayers.
“Watch the games. Additionally, pray for these players that God grant us calmness, diligence, and that we utilize our God-given abilities in a manner that represents ORU well,” said Coach Mills.