It was Christmas at the Mabee Center on Friday afternoon as the ORU men’s basketball team rounded off its non-conference schedule against the Richmond Spiders. Santa took photos with the fans, Albert Owens had a couple of dunks, Darian Harris dropped a couple threes and it rained free throws in the 87-72 defeat of the Spiders.
“It was a good Christmas present. I think our guys took another step in the right direction,” said Head Coach Scott Sutton. “We beat a very good, very well-coached team that is hard to defend.”
The Golden Eagles went into halftime with a one-point lead due to a rough first half riddled with fouls and execution errors, but came back for the second ready to shoot and play the defense they have been working on for weeks.
Senior Jalen Bradley dropped 22 points and six rebounds to lead the team. Owens and Kris Martin also posted double figures. Harris had his hands full in the contest where he had a career high five assists, hit two three-pointers and even played as point-guard for a few minutes.
“Our team is best when we have multiple guys playing good. We can’t have one guy. We have to have three or four guys scoring double digits,” said Bradley, who also spoke highly of Harris’ performance. “Darian’s a good player. We trust him, he’s one of our best passers on the team and he can make free throws toward the end of the game, so we’re comfortable having the ball in his hands.”
ORU shot 47.3 percent from the field (26-55) and 35 percent from three (7-20). Fouls were flying on both ends of the court. The Golden Eagles finished with 20 and the Spiders a season high of 27, respectively allowing both teams to get to the line multiple times. Aaron Young led the team going 6-6 from the stripe in its 28-40 (70 percent) effort.
Strengthening defense has been a priority for the team this season and its improvement is verified by the stats. ORU forced 14 turnovers, had seven steals and four blocks. It also held Richmond to 2-23 from beyond the arc.
“The goal for this season the first day of practice wasn’t ‘[don’t] do this, win the championship this or that,’” Bradley said. “Our goal was to improve every day.”
The victory brought ORU’s record to 4-10 and was the second consecutive win of the season.
“We had a very tough non-conference schedule. We let a few games, a few big time games slip away from us,” Martin said. “Our record doesn’t really speak for the team we are, but we didn’t know how to win at the beginning of the year, but we’ve gotten so much better defensively we came together as a team. We’re winning games, we’re learning how to close and it’s going to lead us into conference.”
ORU begins the Summit League schedule at Denver on Dec. 28 and the team is ready to tackle it head-on.
“I think we’re in a good place. We’re heading into Denver with a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum,” Sutton said. “I’m excited to start this conference season.”