Oral Roberts did not lead in the final nine minutes of regulation, but tied the game in the final five seconds, forcing overtime where the Golden Eagles led the entire extra period to notch a 65-61 victory over Sam Houston State on Saturday afternoon at Johnson Coliseum.
ORU (10-8, 5-1), stands alone in second place in the Southland Conference with the victory, dropping Sam Houston to 11-7, 4-2.
"I've talked a lot about toughness and I thought the last two minutes of regulation and the overtime period our guys out-toughed them," said Coach Scott Sutton. "It doesn't matter how you get them as long as you get a "W" on the road. Huge, huge win today."
In addition to getting 26 points at the free throw line, shooting 83 percent (26-31), ORU was aided by a career night from Korey Billbury, who had 16 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Billbury also had a new career high with his team high eight rebounds.
"I thought it was the best Korey has played since exhibition season," said Sutton. "I thought tonight he was very aggressive and very confident on the offensive end, which we needed."
It wasn't all Billbury though, as ORU posted the most balanced offensive outing of the season with four players in double figures. Shawn Glover and Warren Niles led the way with 17 each, while Damen Bell-Holter had 13 points.
The Bearkats got 11 points from Marquel McKinney on a 4-4 shooting effort, and 10 from Darius Gaston, but all 11 players who saw action scored at least a point.
Most team stats favored Sam Houston as they had 18 more shots, made five more 3-pointers and held a 41-32 advantage on the glass. Despite having two more turnovers, ORU did have a 16-10 advantage in points off turnovers, and a 17-point advantage from the free throw line thanks to the 83 percent effort, as opposed to SHSU's 47.4 percent mark from the charity stripe.
After jumping out to a 5-0 lead, ORU surrendered a 12-0 run to start the game. Even though the shots weren't falling early, ORU continued to force the ball inside and including an and-one possession for Billbury, 11 of the team's next 13 points came from the line as ORU climbed back to within one at 19-18.
One of the four first-half 3-pointers for SHSU put the Bearkats back up by five but ORU answered with baskets by Niles and Glover, and a free throw by Jackson to tie the game at 23-23, the first tie since the 16:21 mark when it was 5-5.
Will Bond hit his second 3-pointer of the half to give SHSU a 26-23 lead at halftime.
Niles completed a 3-point play to start the second frame and quickly tied the game at 26-26, and ORU would soon grab its largest lead of the game to that point at 30-27.
It would not remain the largest as ORU pushed it out to an eight-point advantage eight minutes into the second half, taking a 41-33 lead on a Niles layup, outscoring SHSU 18-7 in the second half to that point.
Sam Houston came roaring back and a 3-pointer by Jeremy McKay gave the Bearkats a 44-43 lead inside of nine minutes to play.
The game would remain close to the end of regulation with each team having a chance in the last five seconds to win the game. Glover tied the game for ORU with a free throw with 3.7 seconds left, and when he missed the second, the Bearkats got the ball with a chance to win the game but could not get a shot off, sending the game to overtime.
With ORU up three and less than a minute to play, DeMarcus Gatlin missed both free throws and ORU got the rebound with 31 seconds left.
For the second game in a row, it was free throws down the stretch that helped ORU be victorious on the road as Jackson and Niles hit shots in the final minute of the overtime period to make it a 65-59 lead for the Golden Eagles.
With time on the side of the Golden Eagles, ORU backed up and gave Sam Houston one final layup, but escaped with the 65-61 victory on the road.
The Golden Eagles will return home for a four-game homestand, starting with Lamar on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m. ORU will retire Mark Acres' jersey during the game.