Oral Roberts got a combined 55 points from Warren Niles (29) and Damen Bell-Holter (26) as the duo led the Golden Eagles past Nicholls State Saturday afternoon at Stopher Gym. With the 76-63 victory, the Golden Eagles opened Southland Conference play 2-0 on the road. ORU moved to 7-7 (2-0 Southland) with the victory, while Nicholls State fell to 2-9 (1-1).
Bell-Holter tied a career high with four blocks as he continued to fill up the stat sheet with seven rebounds, and an assist to go along with his fourth-straight double-digit scoring performance. With the four blocks, Bell-Holter moved up into sole possession of sixth place on the career list at ORU with 108 blocks, passing Antonio Martin (106).
It was the first time since Dec. 5 of this season against Texas State in which ORU has had two players score at least 20 points, when Bell-Holter and Niles each had 21.
ORU also controlled the boards as they out-rebounded the Colonels 42-23 on the night, tying the Belmont game for the most dominant rebounding edge of the season and limiting Nicholls State to just nine second-chance points.
Dantrell Thomas led the Colonels with 19 points, while Jeremy Smith, Shane Rillieux and Amin Torres each had 11 points.
If there was a downside to a game in which ORU dominated rebounding, had a season-high seven blocks, and shot 53.8 percent from the field it was 20 turnovers committed by the Golden Eagles, which led to 16 Colonel points.
"We've talked a lot over the years about the importance of going on the road in conference and winning games," coach Scott Sutton said. "To get a sweep in these first two road games was very important. It's good to get out of here with a win. I thought we did some really good things. I thought Warren and Damen were great again and we rebounded extremely well but our bench did not play very well."
An early 12-0 run put ORU up big early, led by four-straight buckets by Bell-Holter, who had eight points, a pair of rebounds and a block in the first five minutes of the game. ORU would go on to lead by as many as 13 early on after three-straight baskets by Niles for ORU, and another by Bell-Holter made it 21-8.
Nicholls State came back and cut it to a seven point game with six-straight of its own, making it 21-14 midway through the first half. Five consecutive points by ORU pushed it back to a double-digit lead and it would only get below 10 once the remainder of the half as ORU opened up as much as a 17-point lead in the first half.
The two teams played evenly for the majority of the second half, with the lead hovering between 19 and 14 until ORU finally broke the 20-point mark with less than three minutes to play, taking a 75-54 lead. With the victory already in hand with a minute to play and ORU up 76-56, Nicholls scored seven points in the final minute to cut the final margin to 13.
The Golden Eagles will return home for the first time since Dec. 22 as they host Northwestern State on Thursday and Stephen F. Austin on Saturday. Both games will tip off from the Mabee Center at 7:30 p.m.
Nicholls State scored four points in the game's final nine seconds, upending the Oral Roberts women's basketball team by a 69-66 count on Saturday afternoon at Stopher Gym. The loss drops ORU to 4-8 (1-1 Southland Conference).
Sarah Shelton paced the Golden Eagles with a career-best 21 points, while Jaci Bigham scored nine points and added 10 assists.
Taylor Cooper scored 16 in the loss, while Kevi Luper added 12. ORU shot 43.9 percent from the floor.
Nicholls (9-4, 1-1 SLC) was led by Alisha Allen, who scored 18 points. Jenny Nash added 14, with a dozen markers coming after halftime. The Colonels shot 53.8 percent in the victory.
Nicholls came out on fire, hitting their first four shots. A moving jumper from LiAnn McCarthy with16:43 on the clock gave the home team an 11-4 lead, forcing a timeout from Misti Cussen.
But the Golden Eagles rallied with pinpoint shooting of their own. Cooper hit three consecutive three-pointers, capping an 11-3 run with another long distance bomb to give the Golden Eagles a 22-18 lead at the 12:09 mark.
Nicholls retook control late in the half, closing on a 9-4 run. A KK Babin three-pointer in the half's final minute gave the Colonels a five-point lead, and they went into the break with a 38-35 advantage.
Cooper led all scorers with 11 points at the break, while Allen had 10 to pace Nicholls. The home team shot 55.2 percent from the floor in the second period.
The second half was incredibly tight, with the two sides swapping the lead eight times and neither squad leading by more than four points. ORU took their final lead at the 1:11 mark, when Shelton scored on a stick back to give the Golden Eagles a 66-65 advantage.
After a Nicholls turnover, ORU got the ball back with 25 seconds left and the shot clock off. But the Golden Eagles turned the ball back over to the Colonels, and Allen scored a runner in the lane with nine seconds left to give the Colonels a 67-66 edge.
ORU turned the ball over again on the ensuing inbounds play, and Emani White of Nicholls hit two free throws with four seconds left the stretch the lead to three. The Golden Eagles had one final opportunity to send the game to overtime, but Bigham's 30-foot heave at the buzzer was short and ORU came up on the losing end.
ORU returns home for the first time in 36 days when they host Northwestern State on Thursday. Game time at the Mabee Center is scheduled for 5 p.m.