Oral Roberts To Face Purdue In NCAA Tournament

Monday, March 12th 2007, 9:38 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Oral Roberts women's basketball program came full circle in a matter of speaking on Monday, coach Jerry Finkbeiner said.

The private Tulsa school, which won the Mid-Continent Conference tournament championship last week, learned it will play Big Ten Conference tournament champion Purdue in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Oral Roberts (22-10) thus will make its fourth NCAA tournament appearance in Finkbeiner's 11 seasons against the same team the Golden Eagles played when they made their first NCAA trip in 1999.

That year, Purdue beat the Golden Eagles 68-48 on its way to the national championship. This season's game would appear to be another uphill climb for 15th-seeded Oral Roberts, as 11th-ranked Purdue (28-5) received a No. 2 seed.

The Boilermakers, led by Katie Gearlds, who averages 18.5 points
a game, have made 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances.

"Things are relative," Finkbeiner said. "We had a good year at our level. Now it's like a David and Goliath scenario all over again. That's what gives March Madness its name. We are realistic in our preparation, that it will be a matchup nightmare."

But, Finkbeiner said, the Golden Eagles will have a bit of an advantage, with the game being played Saturday in Minneapolis.

In Oral Roberts' first three tournament trips, the Golden Eagles had to play Purdue at Purdue, Oklahoma at Oklahoma and Texas in Dallas. Oral Roberts never has won an NCAA tournament game.

"It's the first time we truly have a neutral-floor feel for the NCAA tournament," Finkbeiner said. "We're up against the Big 10 tournament champion team with size and quickness and we're not a map with schools like that, but the neutral floor just kind of squares things out a little bit."

Finkbeiner said his team, which has six seniors, has played much better after its second-leading scorer and rebounder, Jenny Hardin, returned two weeks ago after missing six weeks with a broken foot.

Oral Roberts' leading scorer is Elisha Turek, the Mid-Continent's all-time leading scorer with 2,030 points. The senior, who averaged 17.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, is the first player in league history to surpass 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.

Oral Roberts beat Oakland 72-55 in the Mid-Continent tournament championship game last Tuesday.

"We have achieved our national championship this past week," Finkbeiner said about the conference tournament title. "The pressure of one-and-done and (having only) one automatic (bid), that puts a lot of pressure on girls and our staff.

"The next step is icing. We'll try to do something an ORU team has never done."