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ORU Looks for a Strong Finish

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Originally Published: Feb 9, 2010 5:50 PM CDT

Bobby Lewis
Oklahoma Sports Reporter

TULSA, Oklahoma – Oral Roberts knows how easily things can start to snowball out of control. The Golden Eagles hope to avoid another tumble this week after dropping a heart-breaker at Oakland on a last-second jump shot Saturday night. They try to put the sting of another tight Summit League loss behind them when they host Western Illinois on Thursday.

"On the road, you can't afford to go through spurts where you don't play very well and that's what we did on Saturday night," head coach Scott Sutton said. "I think our guys will take a lot of confidence out of this road trip knowing if we play well, we can play with anybody in this league."

The Golden Eagles led the Golden Grizzlies by 13 points at halftime, but were unable to hold on to the lead. Oakland opened the second half with a 22-1 run, and Johnathon Jones’ basket with 1 second left gave his team a 79-77 win. ORU trails Oakland by three games now, with just six conference games to play. A win against the Leathernecks this week could help build some confidence heading into the season’s final weeks.

"We have a chance these last six games if we play well, we'll win," Sutton said after practice on Tuesday. "We'll have a lot of momentum heading into the conference tournament. We can take what happened at Oakland and at IUPUI a few weeks ago when we got beat in overtime. Those are two top teams in our league and if we play well in Sioux Falls, we have a chance to do some damage."

One bright spot from the loss to Oakland was the play of freshman Warren Niles. The guard tallied 30 points against the Golden Grizzlies, including 10 points in the game’s final 2:28. His 30-point performance was the second time this season Niles scored at least that many, making him the first freshman to do that since Caleb Green in the 2003-2004 season. Niles effort earned him Summit League Player of the Week honors for the second time this season.

"He certainly gives us a big time weapon," Sutton said. "The last three weeks he's been as good as anybody."

Earlier this season, ORU topped Western Illinois on the road, 74-62. Kevin Ford and Michael Craion each finished with double-doubles. Niles and Dominique Morrison each scored 15 points. Ceola Clark is the key for the Leathernecks on offense. The sophomore finished with 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in the team’s first meeting. Junior center Keith Benson is averaging 17.5 points per game for Oakland.

The Golden Eagles have won eight consecutive games against WIU entering Thursday’s matchup. Morrison, the Golden Eagles sharp-shooting sophomore, will start his 57th-consecutive game against the Leathernecks. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

ORU will wrap up its home season with games against IUPUI and Centenary next week. ORU’s final three games of the season are all away from the Mabee Center.

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