The wait is finally over. Well, at least in terms of conference victories as the ORU Men’s basketball team finally got “off the schneid” as the Golden Eagles defeated South Dakota State 94-88. The win marked the team’s notching its first conference victory of the season.
After dropping their first three games of the conference schedule, the Golden Eagles came out with an aggressive, attacking mindset to start the game. Center Albert Owens set the tone for the Golden Eagles. The Cedar Hill, Texas native scored nine points in the first 11 minutes of the in the first half.
“Starting out, we tried focusing on defense and taking good shots,” said ORU forward Emmanuel Nzekwesi.
South Dakota State, who began the game in front of ORU in the conference standings, were just as hungry and benefited from the up-tempo style that Scott Sutton’s team came out playing. The Jackrabbits shot a scorching 65 percent from the field in the first half and 53 percent from deep as they trailed 50-49 at the break.
Many of the shot attempts the Jackrabbits got in the first half were uncontested. Sutton and his players were not happy about that at halftime.
“Part of it was hoping they were going to cool down a bit, which they did. We just had too many breakdowns,” said Sutton. “We told them if we defended the way we talked about on the scouting report that we’d be ok.”
“Really it was just getting there [to the shooter] on the catch. We been working on that all week, making sure shooters don’t have much space,” said Owens. “In the first half, we had a couple of mental lapses that allowed them to get shots, threes off. In the second half, we really made it a focus not to let any of the shooters get clean looks at the basket.”
The message Sutton gave his team in the locker room was loud and clear. The Golden Eagles opened up the second half on an 8-2 run. The team also tightened up its perimeter defense forcing South Dakota State to take poor shots and kick it down to their leading scorer Mike Daum.
After the Golden Eagles got ahead by as much as 11 in the second half, SDSU chipped away. Daum did his best to put the Jackrabbits on his back as he imposed his will on ORU using his size to bully his way in the post. He led all scorers with 32 points including 19 in the second half.
South Dakota tied the game with 1:20 left in the game, but couldn’t get a shot to fall in the remaining time. While it wasn’t a defensive battle by any means, the Golden Eagles did what they needed to do to win.
“We did a lot of good things offensively, took care of the basketball, rebounded well. Defensively, you got to give them a lot of credit, especially early. Every time we made a mistake or blew an assignment, they made us pay,” said Sutton. “When you build an 11-point lead, especially at home, you need to put a team away. But give them credit, they kept fighting and anytime you have a player like Daum, they’re never out of a game. Happy with the win, but I hope we play better Saturday.”
Young in doubt for Saturday?
Senior guard Aaron Young sat out Thursday night’s contest with a concussion according to Sutton. Sutton says Young sustained the concussion in practice earlier in the week and is now in concussion protocol. Young will undergo testing to determine if he plays Saturday vs. IUPUI. His status for the game is questionable.
Quick turnaround for the Golden Eagles
The Golden Eagles are going to have to quickly put this game behind them as the team faces IUPUI (7-11, 1-3 SLC) Saturday afternoon. It will be the first time ORU sees the Jaguars this season. The Golden Eagles split the season series back in 2016. Tip-off is set for approximately at 3 P.M. at the Mabee Center.