Oral Roberts got a combined 49 points from Warren Niles and Damen Bell-Holter and the Golden Eagles never trailed as they topped Sam Houston State 74-64 Thursday night at the Mabee Center.
Niles had a game-high 25 points, while Bell-Holter posted his ninth double-double of the season and fourth 20/10 game in a row with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Korey Billbury added 13 points and had four assists with just one turnover against the Bearkat pressure. D.J. Jackson had a team-high five assists on the night.
"I thought in the first half we played about as well as we've played this year, and Warren and Damen were certainly great in the first half," said coach Scott Sutton. "We came out with a great deal of energy and our defense was great the first half. They were active, they got their hands on passes and got some steals and deflections and we played like we have to play."
Sam Houston State got 11 points apiece from James Thomas and Will Bond, and Terrance Motley chipped in 10 points, with Thomas and Motley each grabbing a team high eight rebounds.
ORU shot 52 percent, the best mark since hitting 62 percent four games ago against Nicholls, and hit 81 percent (22-27) of its free throws, while SHSU hit just 55 percent (11-20).
"I thought we played an excellent first half. I thought we played as well as we have in a long, long time and built a 17 point lead," said Sutton. "We challenged them at halftime to put this team away because we haven't done that all year, and it didn't happen tonight. We didn't guard and we allowed way too many second chance opportunities."
After ORU opened up a 12-2 lead less than four minutes into the game, Sam Houston used its second timeout of the game to try and slow down the Golden Eagles. At that point, the Bearkats had hit one of just three shot attempts and had three turnovers.
The offense did cool off but the defense did not, and ORU forced six turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game. Niles got things going again with back-to-back treys to give ORU a 22-12 lead with less than 10 minutes to play in the half.
The Bell-Holter Niles combination was in full swing in the first half, scoring 34 points in a row after the opening 3-pointer by Billbury. The duo put together a 9-0 run to make it 33-18 in favor of the Golden Eagles with four minutes left in the first half.
Finally with a minute to go, Brandon Conley laid the ball in to snap the streak of 34-straight points scored by Niles and Bell-Holter, and gave ORU a 39-23 lead.
Trailing 41-24 at halftime, Sam Houston State wasted no time getting back into the game, scoring the first seven points of the half to make it a 10 point game at 41-31.
Still up just 10, it was Niles again who jumpstarted the ORU offense, scoring four-straight. After a 3-point play by Bell-Holter, the ORU lead bounced back up to 14 at 50-36. A pair of Steven Roundtree free throws got the lead back out to 16, one shy of the biggest lead to that point, but SHSU again had an answer with seven-straight points to cut it to a single-digit lead at 52-43, the closest the Bearkats had been since it was 26-18 with more than seven minutes to play in the first half.
The Bearkats continued to chip away and five-straight points by Thomas made it an eight point game, 58-50.
Despite nearly a three minute drought, a Billbury layup made it a 12-point game with two minutes to play, and free throws down the stretch allowed ORU to extend its home winning streak to five games, winning 74-64.
ORU will be back at home on Saturday night as the Golden Eagles play host to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with a 7:30 p.m. tip in the Mabee Center.