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UND (4-14, 0-5) @ ORU (12-6, 6-1) 1/20 7 PM


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In what has become a trend, UND couldn't overcome a late first half drought in a defeat to Western Illinois.  Now UND hits the road to finish the first half of the conference season, with a trip to Tulsa to take on Oral Roberts, who is living up to their preseason expectations.

About Oral Roberts:

In 1 bid leagues, there is a dream.  A dream that the team that represents their conference becomes Cinderella, the team that everyone talks about.  The team that pulls the upset.  And yes, the extra money for winning is nice as well.

Oral Roberts was THE Cinderella.  They didn't just win one game, they won two of their NCAA tournament games and came within a Abmas 3 of making it to the Elite 8.  It is the best run that a Summit League team has ever made. (two other teams made deep runs in the past but they were the Mid-Continent Conference).  

It wasn't always in the cards last year.  ORU was talented on the offensive end, but the question was always:  Could they played defense?   When Sioux Falls rolled around, they figured it out.  They got their defense, they got their stars to play, they got their supporting cast to step up.  They locked down UND, beat SDSU in a classic, and then held off a charging NDSU squad to break the Dakota Monopoly.  

So the question was:  Encore?  Well they would have to do it without a key piece as Obanor decided to take his talents to the Big 12 and Texas Tech.  The good news was that the team improved their guards through the transfer portal.  

How has it gone?  For the most part, pretty well.  After a decent non-conference schedule, they have turned it up in conference play.   Outside of a 82-76 setback in Brookings, they have done what they have needed to do and find themselves only 1 game back of the leading Jacks.   Abmas has been Abmas. McBride and Phipps have stepped up to fill the voids for the guards.  

This is a big weekend for ORU, on Saturday they get the Bison, who they have a chance to get a big win against a preseason favorite and cement their 2nd spot.  However, they need to avoid the trap against UND.  Now you would think that against a short-handed UND squad, it should be an issue...

I'm here to tell you: Sather has found a way, in two games against ORU, where UND was shorthanded against an ORU strength and pulled out a win.  Two years ago, a thin UND frontcourt held their own in a victory in Grand Forks.  Last year, thinness at the guard position allowed UND to steal one in Tulsa.   So while it doesn't seem likely that UND will pull this out... you can't put it past them.

About Paul Mills: (5th Season, 69-72 overall record, 37-31 Summit)

The longtime Baylor Assistant has now entered his 5th year and it goes to show just how a deep tournament run can change your fortunes.  After some middling years, the breakthrough finally happened for Oral Roberts.  Now with a Sweet 16 run under his belt, the question is:  What can you do for a encore?  So far so good, but it would be pretty sweet to have a repeat performance.  Another deep run could lead Mills to other job opportunities.  

Key Player: Max Abmas 

There is no words to truly describe what Abmas can do on the basketball court, but lets just say that he might have the greenest light in the nation and the deepest range.  He is still putting up gaudy numbers, averaging 23 ppg and 4 assists.  He also is shooting 42% from 3.   UND is going to have their hands full with Abmas.  When he is done with ORU, he is going to making a lot of money playing pro ball somewhere. 

Series History: ORU leads the series 4-3.  They are 3-1 in Tulsa. 

Other Games:

USD (3-3) @ WIU (3-3):Sneaky good matchup in Malcomb, both teams are around .500 and are on winning streaks.  Western has their non-conference swagger back and a great chance to climb up the standings.  South Dakota and their tough defense are winners of their last 3 and looking to make their move in the standings as well.

SDSU (6-0) @ UST (2-2): SDSU brings their band to St. Paul for the first time.  The conference favorites verses the plucky upstarts.  If UST is looking for a litmus test to see how they are doing against one of the Summit Powers, they are going to find out.  SDSU looking to make it to 7-0 and talks of running the table might start.

NDSU (3-2) @ UMKC (2-3): The Bison are having some bad luck.  Losing to Western at home was a blow, but not having Grant Nelson until the middle of February is going to hurt more.  Without him and Morgan, people can really focus their efforts on Rocky.  This won't be an easy trip:  Good news, they have an KC squad without Allick.  Still, it is Kansas City, and their style will make things ugly for the Bison

Keys:

1) Slow Abmas or everyone else?

2) Play loose

3) Make the plays you need to play

The Call:

This should be an ORU route.  They have a ton of talent on both sides and UND is basically playing with 8.5 guys (Sueker is just trying to play his best on a badly injured ankle).  However, this could be the trap game for ORU.  Just play loose and see what happens.  I think UND stays with them for a half, but Abmas and ORU will be too much.

ORU 88-72

Game is here: https://oruathletics.com/watch/?Live=219&type=Live

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