Strong defense, a phrase not typically used to describe ORU men’s basketball, was exactly how it secured its first win against a Div. I opponent this season bringing its record to 3-10.
“It feels really good. It’s a load off our shoulders,” said junior Albert Owens. “I think it’s a smart idea tonight to treat every game like we did Creighton and Michigan State where it’s more about defense stopping transition points and easy baskets than it is anything else we can do on offense.”
After a slow first half, the Golden Eagles came out and finished what they knew needed to be done. Win. The team closed out the game 63-48 at the Mabee Center Monday night. It was the first time in nearly two years ORU held a team to fewer than 50 points.
“[UALR] was a good basketball team. Those guys know how to win,” said Head Coach Scott Sutton. “They start five seniors, won 30-something games last year, picked second in their league. That was a quality win.”
The offense struggled and the team knew it. Senior Jalen Bradley led the team with 14 points. Aaron Anderson was the only other Golden Eagle who broke into double figure territory with 12. Shooting only 37.5 percent (21-56) from the field and 36.8 percent (7-19) from three-point range and having 13 turnovers didn’t do it any favors. Locked-in defense, however, did.
“Coach has been telling us all year long that it starts with defense,” Bradley said. “Tonight we didn’t score as many points as usual, but we were able to win because we played our best defensive game as far as containing the ball and rebounding.”
Both ORU and UALR matched in rebounding with 39 apiece, with Kris Martin earning a career high nine boards. ORU turned the ball over 13 times, but forced 15 Trojan turnovers. The most important number in the win though might be zero, because it’s not every day the Golden Eagles stop a team from making a single shot from three. It’s the first time since Dec. 3, 2011 to be exact.
“It was a big win. [At] this point in the season we needed something good to happen to us. We needed to beat a quality opponent. I’m very pleased,” Sutton said. “We have to learn how to win games when you don’t have a great night offensively, which we didn’t. You have to win with your defense. You have to win with rebounding. You have to win with toughness. I thought our guys did that tonight.”
While some have criticized the team and its leadership, Sutton is confident in the team he’s taking into Summit League competition due to the strength of its nonconference schedule.
The Golden Eagles will round off the first half of the season against Richmond on Friday at the Mabee Center. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.