When Oakland played Oral Roberts down in Tulsa earlier this season, the Golden Grizzlies played a dominant brand of basketball in the first half, and only a last-second three-pointer by Roderick Pearson stood between them and a double-digit lead at the halfway point. ORU bounced back in the second half and eventually grabbed a small lead, but Oakland did work down the stretch to retain the lead on its way to victory. In the championship game, OU's players came out firing just like they did at the Mabee Center, but this time they would head in at the break with a twelve point lead. When Oral Roberts came out gunning to begin the second half, it looked like this one would play out just like that December meeting.
ORU tied the game on a three-pointer by Warren Niles with 13:29 left in the game, and a mystical foul on Travis Bader led to Niles going to the line where he connected to give his team a one point lead. Then, despite precedent suggesting this one would be close, Oakland proceeded to put a thumping on the Golden Eagles for the next ten minutes in the form of a 28-9 run, all but assuring the automatic bid was safely defended. Here, I recap that run through the very subjective eyes of a stoked Grizzly fan:
13:14: Keith Benson passes out of the double-team to Will Hudson under the basket. Hudson completes the lay-up. Very comfortable play, team shows its poise. OU regains one-point lead. [Run: 2-0]
12:52: Dominique Morrison drives on Drew Valentine, Kito comes to help leading to an opening under the basket for Tim Morton, ORU's back-up big man. DoMo completes nice assist to Morton [Run: 2-2]
12:25: Reggie Hamilton hits a falling-back jumper after losing Ken Holdman thanks to a Keith Benson screen. He kisses it off the glass for good measure. A fairly unusual play for Reggie considering just 6.7% of all of his field goals in the regular season were two-point jumpers outside of the paint, per my stats tracking. [Run: 4-2]
11:53: Ken Holdman misses an open three. Drew Valentine grabs the board over Steven Roundtree. A break for the Grizzlies.
11:30: After a Larry Wright drive and miss, Will Hudson offensive rebound and miss, and Keith Benson offensive rebound, the officials call a foul on Steven Roundtree. Benson goes to the charity stripe, hits both. [Run: 6-2]
11:21: Tim Morton hits a jumper while extended in the paint. Kito was protecting the basket so he had some room, but who has Morton taking that shot, let alone hitting it? Brings ORU back to within one. [Run: 6-4]
11:07: Hamilton passes to Benson early in the possession. Benson posts up Morton deep in the post, gets an easy two. [Run: 8-4]
10:28: Warren Niles' pass to Ken Holdman is intercepted by Hamilton who proceeds to run the length of the court for a transition bucket [Run: 10-4]
10:13: Warren Niles loses Larry Wright off a screen, gets pass on perimeter, and opts for the NBA-range three. Misses. Rebound Benson.
9:57: Hamilton gets space off the dribble, shoots a quick three that misses. Ball bounces around a bit before heading toward the sidelines at centercourt - last touched by Benson. But Benson dives to the ground to save it toward Larry Wright who is promptly fouled. Wright sinks 'em both. A great effort by Benson to save the ball on that play. [Run: 10-4]
9:39: Damen Bell-Holter's shot attempt is swatted by Keith Benson.
9:38: Hamilton races to grab the deflection, but he is called for a foul on Rod Pearson at center court. Coach Kampe can not believe his eyes! Though as Rasheed Wallace might warn, "The ball don't lie." Pearson misses the front end of the 1-and-1.
9:27: After a Drew Valentine rebound, Oakland races up the court where Hamilton dishes off to a streaking Benson for a lay-up. ESPN play-by-play man Lou Canellis proclaims, "He's headed to the next level as a lottery pick!" " [Run: 12-4]
9:07: Rod Pearson misses a lay-up that was altered by both Hamilton and Benson.
8:59: Hudson tosses the rebounded ball to Hamilton who drives straight to the bucket and finishes despite a foul by Damen Bell-Holter. Sinks the and-1 attempt. Lead is now back to double-digits. [Run: 15-4]
8:47: ORU scoring drought is over after a Will Hudson foul leads to two made free-throws by Dominique Morrison. [Run: 15-6]
8:39: OU breaks the ORU press, leading to a quick alley-oop pass from Valentine to Benson who dunks it home (the second one in this clip). [Run: 17-6]
8:19: Warren Niles forced into a long two-point jump shot after Hudson stops his path to the basket. Misses. Hamilton grabs rebound and...
8:11: ...takes the ball down the court and weaves through two defenders for yet another transition lay-up where a foul was called again. Canellis yells, "HE JUST DID THAT!" Yes, he did. He's a gunner. Hamilton misses the and-1 attempt. [Run: 19-6]
7:54: Damen Bell-Holter puts up a shot attempt over Keith Benson that soars over the top of the backboard. No comment.
7:40: Out of a media timeout, Hamilton spots up and drains a three over Ken Holdman. Ice cold! [Run: 22-6]
7:04: Will Hudson foul leads to two free-throws for Dominique Morrison. (It should be noted both fouls on Will so far in this run were on attempts to draw the charge) He goes 1-of-2. [Run: 22-7]
6:48-42: Ken Holdman finally gets the best of Hamilton, causing him to make an errant pass. Holdman shows off some of his own quickness by taking the ball from end-to-end for a lay-up. [Run: 22-9]
6:18: Grizzlies go to Benson on the block, guarded by Damen Bell-Holter. The sophomore big nicks Benson on the arm as he falls away with a jump shot. Shot does not fall, but one of the two free-throws does go in. [Run: 23-9]
6:01: Dominique Morrison misses a three contested by Valentine. Ledrick Eackles pulls down the board!
5:50: Hamilton cuts through the lane before dishing to Benson who is fouled by Steven Roundtree. The Newcomer of the Year fouls out with 5:50 left. Great year for the young forward, but foul trouble was an issue for him all year. During the free-throw attempts (Benson hits 1-of-2 again), they show the following graphic where, yet again, the loss to Wright State is lamented! [Run: 24-9]
5:29: Rod Pearson makes a nice move toward the basket but misses as he attempts a wrap-around lay-up.
5:01: With a 16-point lead, Hamilton takes his time bringing the ball up the court, which clearly messed with his aura because he only has one speed: go! It goes without saying that he misses the shot attempt.
4:55-51: Drew Valentine pops the ball out of Dominique Morrison's hands, which conveniently lands in Hamilton's hands. Hamilton gives the transition pass to Drew who dunks it with authority. [Run: 26-9]
4:38-32: Rod Pearson again tries to get off a shot in the paint, but Keith Benson's outstretched arms send the ball into the palms of Ledrick Eackles. Eackles, showcasing his own end-to-end speed, runs with Hamilton up the court and dishes to the junior for yet another transition bucket. And with that Oakland has itself a 20-point lead, thus completing the majority of this run. [Run: 28-9]
Most would agree the game was pretty much wrapped up at that point. OU bumped the lead to as high as 24 before ORU made a couple of late buckets to get it to a respectable fourteen point deficit at close. To recap the recap:
- ORU's leading scorer during this stretch was Tim Morton with four points. Morrison had three points from free throws, and Holdman had a lay-up off the only forced turnover during the stretch. Furthermore, two of ORU's possessions ended because of an OU steal or block. A full six of the team's other possessions ended on missed field goals that were contested. Only two attempts - Holdman's three and Niles' NBA three - were mostly uncontested.
- Hamilton led the team with 12 points during this stretch. Kito chipped in 10. Will, Drew, and Larry each had two. Winners, all of them.
What a run! This team's will to win showed up throughout the season and conference tournament, but nowhere was it more needed than right after Bader went to the bench with his fourth foul and Niles put ORU ahead. The team's seniors stepped up, and its unequivocal leader proved why he has earned such a role.
Keith Benson In Championship Games
Oakland's senior center had his best championship as a Grizzly against ORU in terms of point production, but he has more or less had monster lines all three times he's played in the Tuesday finale on ESPN2. His per game averages in those three games:
- Points: 16.7
- Field goal shooting: 59%
- Rebounds: 15.0
- Blocks: 4.0
Benson also had four assists in this most recent battle. Most importantly, he leaves Oakland 2-1 in championship games. Not a bad winning percentage to have on one's resume.
The Drew Valentine Signature
This is old news by now, but Drew Valentine was able to conduct his signature play yet again in the championship game. On this one, he steals a pass aimed for Dominique Morrison that leads to a transition dunk.
Oakland heads to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season as The Summit League's automatic qualifier. The team will find out its seed, site, and first round opponent on Sunday evening's Selection Show on CBS.