ORU Women Headed To The Big Dance

Tuesday, March 6th 2007, 3:46 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Needing some motivation, Oral Roberts coach Jerry Finkbeiner turned to the original giant killer.

Finkbeiner said the yellow Hebrew writing on the Golden Eagles' blue warm-up T-shirts was a Biblical quote from David: "What does he get who kills Goliath?"

"When you translate that into modern-day English, it's what do we get when we go to the NCAA tournament?" Finkbeiner said.

The university founded by evangelist Oral Roberts earned the chance to find out with a 72-55 win against Oakland in the Mid-Con championship game Tuesday. Elisha Turek scored 18 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to lead the Golden Eagles into the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years.

This is the fourth Mid-Con title for Oral Roberts, which also earned trips to the NCAAs with wins in 1999, 2001 and 2005.

Turek leaped into a hug with Jenny Hardin after Oakland's final miss, and the entire team flooded the court. The student section soon followed.

"This is something the girls can build on forever. It's just something that they'll treasure and we'll treasure as a group," Finkbeiner said. "I've been part of other championship teams, but this is the sweetest -- there's no question -- because of what this group just didn't give up on."

It was a stomach-turning loss to Oakland earlier this season that got the Golden Eagles going again. Oral Roberts led by 10 with 1:09 remaining before losing 68-64 in overtime.

"Coach started telling us to play with boldness and confidence. Think about what we're going to get when we win the Mid-Con championship. I think that's really where the turning point was," Turek said. "Our guards started shooting with more confidence, and we just knew we were the best team in this conference and we need to start playing like it."

Oral Roberts (22-10) opened the second half with a 17-6 push that included three 3-pointers by Rachel Watman. Watman made a 3-pointer on the Golden Eagles' first possession after halftime and added two more before Sarah Davidson's 3-pointer stretched the lead to 53-41.

Oakland missed 15 of its first 18 shots in the second half before finally shaking out of it when Jessica Pike put back Riikka Terava's miss on a fast break and then hit a 3-pointer on the next trip to trim the deficit to 55-48.

The top-seeded Golden Grizzlies (19-12) got within 56-51 on Nicole Piggott's 3-pointer from the left side, but the team's leading scorer then went to the bench after picking up her first fourth foul on the next trip down with 5:41 remaining.

Oral Roberts, the No. 3 seed, responded with another surge, going up 64-53 on consecutive 3-pointers by Hardin and Katie Langford then scored its final eight points on free throws.

"We got pretty good shots, but they just didn't fall. That happens to every team, but it's how you react to it," Piggott said.

Watman also finished with 18 points and Hardin added 15 to support Turek, the conference's player of the year as well as the top scorer and rebounder. It was the 17th double-double this season for Turek, who tied Oral Roberts' record for career field goals.

Vivian Herron set the mark with 853 from 1985-89, but Turek will have a chance to break it in her second trip to the NCAAs.

Pike led Oakland with 18 points and Piggott added 11. The Golden Grizzlies had won 15 of their previous 16 games, and the only other loss was also against Oral Roberts on Feb. 24.

The Golden Eagles went 10-for-17 from 3-point range.

"We were going to let them beat us from the outside, and they did," Oakland coach Beckie Francis said. "That's probably my mistake as a coach."