Oral Roberts senior Damen Bell-Holter earned his second double-double of the season and the 13th of his career, but it wasn't enough to overcome an athletic Memphis squad as the Golden Eagles fell 72-57 on Friday night at FedEx Forum.
Bell-Holter led all scorers with 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, including eight offensive boards to lead ORU (5-7). It was the first double-double for ORU since the final game of the Great Alaska Shootout when Steven Roundtree had 13 points and 16 rebounds against Belmont. Shawn Glover had 10 points, while Korey Billbury had nine and Brandon Conley, who made his first career start, had a career-best eight points.
"I thought we competed great," coach Scott Sutton said. "I told our guys in the locker room, I'm proud of how hard they played and how they competed. We didn't play well, but we give Memphis a lot of credit. I can walk away and handle a loss a lot better with how we competed, how we played together and how hard we played compared to how we played in the second half against Tulsa on Saturday."
Memphis (8-3) got 17 points from Antonio Barton, 13 points from Joe Jackson and 14 rebounds from D.J. Stephens in the victory. The Tigers shot 52 percent for the game, including 61.9 percent (13-21) in the second half.
ORU on the other hand converted just 37 percent (23-62) from the field and was 0-7 from 3-point range, the first time since going 0-11 at UMKC exactly one year ago (Dec. 28, 2011).
Memphis also used 32 bench points playing 10 players, only one of whom played 30 minutes (Jackson), while ORU dressed just eight players, all of whom saw at least seven minutes with Bell-Holter (38) and Niles (36) logging the most minutes.
With a season-low eight turnovers for the second game in a row, ORU has just 16 combined turnovers over the last two losses after turning it over at least 16 times in four different games this year. The Golden Eagles had six steals on 12 Memphis turnovers, converting those into 14 points.
Working in Memphis' favor was that ORU was without the services of Steven Roundtree, who missed the first game of his ORU career with a slight injury. The Tigers also kept the nation's ninth-leading scorer Warren Niles, scoreless until the 6:21 mark in the game, as Niles narrowly avoiding being shut out for just the third time in his career.
"I thought our freshmen grew up a little bit in a hostile environment," Sutton said. "I thought Brandon Conley continued to improve and Korey and D.J. both compete. As a team, to come in here with a little bit of adversity losing Roundtree and coming off a terrible loss Saturday, I thought our guys bounced back. If we will compete like that and play hard we are going to win a bunch of games."
ORU fell behind 5-0 early but climbed back in steadily, taking its first lead of the game at 11-10 after a plus-one conversion by Korey Billbury. A pair of D.J. Jackson free throws made it a three-point lead, but Memphis responded and scored nine straight and 11 of the next 13 points to take a 22-15 lead.
The Tigers would lead by as many as 13 in the first half and trimmed it to 10 (36-26) near the end of the half and had a layup at the halftime buzzer that rimmed out that would have trimmed into the lead again but it was Memphis with a 38-26 lead at the break.
Neither team was able to gain much ground on the other in the second half, and ORU hung around and was within 10 (50-40) with 13 minutes to play after ORU converted back-to-back Memphis turnovers into points. Another Memphis run, this time a 7-0 spurt, pushed the lead back to 17 at 57-40.
The trend continued as ORU again cut into the lead and forced Memphis to call a timeout as the Golden Eagles gained some momentum. The move paid off as the next six points went the way of Memphis and the Tigers gained a 19-point lead (63-44).
One final push with less than three minutes to go cut the lead to 10 (66-56) once again after a 12-3 run for the Golden Eagles, but ORU never could get it to a single-digit deficit after scoring the final field goal with 2:58 to play in the game, allowing Memphis to build the lead up to the final 72-57 margin.
Southland Conference play begins now for ORU as the Golden Eagles will play their first game in the new conference on Thursday as they face Southeastern Louisiana at 7:15 p.m. in Hammond, La.