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Oral Roberts men show Bison why Golden Eagles are class of the Summit

ORU scored from anywhere and everywhere in taking a convincing win over NDSU on Thursday.

Oral Roberts ‘Connor Vanover slaps away a shot from North Dakota State's Grant Nelson during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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FARGO — The El Zagal Shrine Circus isn’t coming to Fargo until the end of March, but there was a pretty good men’s basketball version of a high-flying act in town on Thursday night. Oral Roberts did everything but walk on a wire high above the Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.

That was some show.

“They’re obviously very offensively skilled,” said Bison forward Grant Nelson. “They can shoot the ball well. We didn’t do a very good job leading up to this game preparing for their offense. I mean, we just weren’t locked in for 40 minutes on defense.”

It didn’t leave a season-high 3,265 fans pleased after the 92-69 Golden Eagles victory, which ended a five-game Bison winning streak. But it wasn’t that NDSU played that poorly — it didn’t — it was the impressive nature of the Oral Roberts offensive attack.

It was relentless.


North Dakota State's Sam Hastreiter collides with Oral Roberts’ Carlos Jürgens during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.

The Golden Eagles threw scoring threats from all five spots on the floor led by all-everything guard Max Abmas and never was that more evident than a game-deciding 13-0 run in the final 10 minutes.

NDSU found out why ORU is running away from the rest of the Summit League with a 7-0 record, 16-4 overall. For the Bison, the benchmark to March Madness has now been set by Oral Roberts and they have less than two months to try and close the gap.

“Oral Roberts right now is clearly the class of the league, a very talented team,” said NDSU head coach Dave Richman. “They’ve got great experience, they seem like a team on a mission and we weren’t ready for that and a big part why we weren’t ready for that is myself.”

Richman pointed to “cutting things short” in practice on Wednesday and called his team’s offensive play “hero ball,” meaning shooting too early in the shot clock and not enough ball movement.

Nelson had 19 of his 21 points in the first half when the Bison were step-for-step with the Golden Eagles.

North Dakota State's Jacari White drives against Oral Roberts during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.

At some point, the 3-point contest these teams displayed in the first 20 minutes would theoretically have to cool, although ORU never really did. The Bison hit six straight from beyond the arc at one point and were 6 of 8 from 3-point range.

ORU was 5 of 10 at that point, also, and the game wasn’t even halfway through the first half. A frenetic pace and then some.

“I feel like we were playing with confidence,” Nelson said. “Other than that, we need to do a better job on defense, we were kind of trading baskets.”


The Golden Eagles were shooting 68% at the eight-minute mark of the first quarter and were down by three possessions. The Bison were at 67%. ORU didn’t let its guard down and took a 52-47 lead at halftime.

That’s 52 at half.

“Listen, I don’t want to take anything away from them,” Richman said. “They’re very talented, but I was disappointed in the ‘hero’ ball and our selfishness, we took quick shots. We took shots without touching the paint, without reversals. A long missed shot by us is like a first pass for them in transition. And they got comfortable.”

In NDSU’s five-game winning streak, the most the Bison gave up in one game was 70 at the University of Denver. ORU’s 52 was more than UND scored against the Bison in an entire game (71-49) and was close to what South Dakota State (65-59) put up against NDSU in a Bison win on the road.

North Dakota State's Damari Wheeler-Thomas slides under Oral Roberts’ Trey Phipps during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.

“We were just getting too comfortable trading baskets,” said NDSU guard Boden Skunberg, “and we weren’t doing the job on the defensive end and I think that’s where we went wrong.”

ORU scored the first 10 of the second half and it was 62-47, with the danger of a blowout impending. The Bison didn’t die, making a couple of attempts to cut into a sub-double digit lead with the best chance holding ORU scoreless for almost five minutes.

Andrew Morgan’s inside hoop cut the lead to 65-58 with 9 minutes remaining. But the Golden Eagles scored a quick eight straight to keep the Bison crowd from helping with momentum.

After a time out, the decisive run made it a 77-58 game with under seven minutes left. The Golden Eagles flirted with 60% shooting all night and other than the brief scoring lapse in the second half were virtually unstoppable.


Oral Roberts’ Carlos Jürgens captures the ball from North Dakota State's Joshua Streit during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.

“Give them credit, that’s their experience,” Richman said.

Abmas led the way with 22 points, but he had plenty of friends. Guard Isaac McBride, who came in averaging 10.9 points, had 21. Connor Vanover, the 7-foot-5 senior transfer from Arkansas, added 15 points.

NDSU won’t have long to sulk. The Bison host Kansas City on Saturday.

“We have to make sure Oral Roberts doesn’t beat us twice and this lingers into Saturday,” Richman said.

ORU (16-4, 7-0 Summit): Vanover 6-11 1-2 , Thompson , Abmas 8-14 2-2 22, McBride 8-11 -0 21, Jurgens 4-6 1-2 10, Weaver 5-7 1-1 12, Mwamba 1-2 0-0 2, Phipps 1-4 0-0 2, Amboree 1-2 0-0 2, Williams 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 36-63 6-9 92.
NDSU (8-12, 5-3 Summit): Nelson 8-17 2-3 21, Morgan 2-5 0-0 4, Wheeler-Thomas 1-4 3-4 5, White 1-8 0-0 3, Skunberg 5-11 2-2 15, Streit 3-3 0-0 6, Miller 4-7 0-0 11, Yoder 0-0 1-2 1, Hastreiter 1-2 1-2 3, Waddles 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 25-58 9-13 69.
Halftime: ORU 52, NDSU 47. Total fouls: ORU 14, NDSU 11. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: ORU 37 (Thompson 7); NDSU 28 (Miller 8). 3-point goals: ORU 14-32 (Vanover 2-7, Thompson 1-2, Abmas 4-9, McBride 5-6, Jurgens 1-1, Weaver 1-3, Mwamba 0-1, Phipps 0-2); NDSU 10-22 (Nelson 3-6, Wheeler-Thomas 0-1, White 1-3, Skunberg 3-7, Miller 3-4, Hastreiter 0-1). Assists: ORU 18 (Thompson 7); NDSU 13 (Miller 5). Turnovers: ORU 11 (Mwamba 3); NDSU 13 (Miller 5). A-3,265.

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Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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