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UND (8-9, 2-1) @ ORU (8-8, 1-2) 1/11 7 pm

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UND couldn't overcome a cold night shooting on the floor, which allowed Omaha to come away with yet another victory against UND and giving UND their first loss.  Now UND heads on the road for three straight, starting their trip down in Tulsa to take on a Oral Roberts team that just might have saved their chances of competing for a Summit League Crown.

About ORU:

When we think of Oral Roberts in the Summit, we have to split it into two acts.  Act I under Scott Sutton was a thing of beauty.  From the 2002-03 season until 2011-12 season, they finished no worse than 4th in the league, won the league 5 times and went to the NCAA tournament 3 times.  Then, they left to go to the Southland conference for 2 years before decided to come back.  Surely Act II would be the same.  Well like 95% of movies series, the sequel does not live up to the original.  Starting 2015-16, they have finished in the bottom half the league more often and let Sutton go.  Paul Mills hasn't had any better luck, keeping the team right around 5th place.  This year, however, expectations were high.  Picked 3rd in the Summit, they could claim to have the best post players in the conference in Nzekwesi and Obanor and a 2-3 zone defense that can give teams fits.  The big question was could they get the guard play to match to be a true threat to USD and NDSU. With guards Max Abmas and Deondre Burns, they hope they have that answer.   The conference season got off to a bumpy start, with losses to Omaha and SDSU, but then got the big one when they took down the Bison at home.  Could that be the moment that gets ORU going and charging back to their former glory? 

About Paul Mills:

Coach Mills is in his 3rd season as coach (30-50, 13-20 Summit) at Oral Roberts and knows that this is his biggest year to date.  He knows that expectations are high to make a run and cannot afford another 20 loss season with this crew.  The additional pressure of living up to a legend like Scott Sutton are also there in the shadows. A conference title would help to ease some of that pressure  His zone defense does cause teams hits and he has three guys that can get double figures in rebounding on any given night.  Will he get the guard play to compliment it?  We shall see. 

Key Player:  Emmanuel Nzekwesi (6'8 Senior)

The ORU senior will go down as one of the better players in school history.  This big has been simply dominate so far, with the only thing slowing him down is injuries in his junior and senior years.  He is double-double machine and is nearly averaging a double-double (15.8 ppg and 9.9 rpg).  He has stopped taking 3s and just lives inside.  Like most bigs, he struggles a bit at the free throw line.  He could be a guy that ends up with 1000 points and 1000 career rebounds when it is all said and done and might have a nice pro career (if he doesn't get his NBA shot, then he should have a solid career overseas).  Rebraca has another tough matchup and should be another great clash in the post!

Series History:

Third Game all time between the two teams, they split the series last year with teams winning on their home courts.  

Stats:

Marlon Stewart is averaging 17 points a game, which is good for 3rd in the Summit

Rebraca is averaging a double-double, which currently the 2nd person doing so in the league (Matt Pile is the other)

Kevin Obanor and Elijah Lufile combined are the best duo in the nation when it comes to offensive rebounds Obanor (3.3) and Lufile (3.8)

Oral Roberts is the best rebounding team in the conference at 40.8 rebounds a game

Milestone Watch:

Marlon Stewart is 59 points away from 1000 points in his career, he is also 66 points away from becoming the 38th member of 1000 career point club at UND.  Given how he has been playing so far, he has a chance to reach both of those marks during the road swing (the matchup against NDSU would be the logical choice) but more than likely he would reach both in the matchup against Denver at Home.

DAE has 235 points so far this season.  The freshman all-time record was set by Troy Huff in 2010-11 at 452.   He currently is averaging more points than Huff did (13.8 to 13.3) but Huff played 34 games, while DAE is only guaranteed 30 games (could have more depending on how the team does in getting to Sioux Falls and potentially any postseason play and could health will play a factor) but he could have a chance to break it. 

Other Games:

First Weekend were there is full Summit League action.  

DU (0-4) @ WIU (1-3)

This could be the battle of teams getting the last spot in Sioux Falls.  DU is desperate for a win and was close to landing it against USD.  WIU is on a 3 game skid and a win here could give them some space away from last place.

Omaha (3-0) @ USD (1-2)

If USD wants to win the crown this year, this is a must win.  The schedule picks up a little bit starting next week with a trip to Fargo then hosting the Bunnies.  So its go time.  Omaha sits in first place all alone after going up to Grand Forks and winning.  Winning in Vermillion would give them another big road win and maintain their 1 game lead over the Bunnies, and with their schedule hitting a soft spot, could really pile on the wins.

SDSU (3-1) @ Fort Wayne (2-1)

The Bunnies are a buzzer beater away from being 4-0 and to be honest, have been a little bit of a surprise given all they have lost.  How serious they are to challenge for this years crown will be seen starting in this 5 game stretch, beginning in Fort Wayne, who bounced back from their UND loss to beat Western.  

Off: NDSU (2-1):  Tough loss down in Tulsa, but still meeting expectation so far.  Big clash coming up against USD next week, then hosing UND.  

Keys:

1) Keep ORU off the boards.  UND cannot get killed on the boards tonight, they need to limit the O-Boards when they can.  They don't necessarily need to win the battle of the boards, but if they can keep it manageable, that would be huge.  This will take a team effort to do so.

2) Be ready to attack the 2-3 zone:  I have a feeling ORU is going to throw the zone a lot at UND due to its outside shooting woes.  UND needs to be aggressive in attacking it.  Whoever plays in the middle of the zone (I am going to guess Walter, but DAE might be an candidate for this), needs to be ready to shred it.  If Billy and Marlon get open looks, bury it.  Attack the gaps and make them pay.

3) Outside shooting:  ORU is NOT that great shooting 3s, if UND is going to win... they need to run the numbers up here. 

The Call:

This begins a tough 3 game stretch for UND.  After this trip, they stay on the road for trips to Brookings and Fargo next week.  Given what happened against Omaha, they could easily lose these three games and sitting at 2-4 in conference play and wondering how many more wins can this team get.  On the other hand, they could also win these three games and with 2 winnable games at home, could be in awesome shape for the 2nd half of the season.  Focusing on the here and now:  this is a tough matchup because of the strength and depth in the frontcourt that ORU has and that zone defense they run.  If UND is going to win, they are going to have the slow this down and make their guards beat them.  Can UND do that?  I think they will do a good job, but they will fall just short

ORU 74-70

Game on the plus!

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Peaking on their thread, they caught wind of our and I guess they aren't running as much zone (or at all) this year.  I'll take any and all corrections when I can get them. 

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