No one gave seventh-seeded Southern Utah much of a chance against a red-hot Oral Roberts at the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament here Sunday afternoon, but the Thunderbirds took ORU to the limit before falling 94-84 in two overtimes.
SUU lost starters Jason Essex and Tarvish Felton - who had contributed 37 points and 15 rebounds - by foul disqualification in the first overtime, and that turned the tide as ORU attacked their replacements and got to the free throw line at will.ORU hit 10-of-12 free throws in the overtime while SUU didn't make a trip to the line in either period. In fact, ORU played the final 1:56 of regulation and both overtimes without being called for a foul.
"It hurt us to lose those two guys," said SUU coach Bill Evans. "They were very aggressive and were a big part of why we were in the game. After they went out, our offense went with them."
ORU's Rocky Walls did most of the damage to SUU, collecting 19 of his tournament-record 21 rebounds after the half-time break. He also had 22 points to lead ORU. SUU's Kenyatta Clyde, the Mid-Con's Newcomer of the Year, led SUU with 18 points and 12 boards.
"This was no surprise to us - not at all," said ORU coach Barry Hinson. "Coach Evans did a great job with the game plan, and their kids showed a lot of character in playing their tails off. We've kind of had their number, but most of them have been draining battles just like this one."
The win was ORU's eighth in a row over Southern Utah in the last three seasons.
"It's like rolling the dice and that seven's going to come up sometime," said ORU's Tim Gill who finished with 20 points. "I'm just glad it didn't happen while I was here."
With the loss, SUU finishes the season 7-20. ORU moves to 19-11 overall and into Monday's semifinal game against the Youngstown State-UMKC winner.