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March Madness: Oral Roberts, OU Continue On; OSU Knocked Out

University of Oklahoma Men's Basketball

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dunk City, say hello to Max Abmas and soaring Oral Roberts. 

The fraternity of No. 15 seeds to reach the second week of the NCAA Tournament has its second member. 

“It’s really just mind blowing,” forward Kevin Obanor said. “We’re grateful. Just happy that we got the win.”

Abmas and Obanor led the way as Oral Roberts pulled off another surprise Sunday night, reaching the round of 16 with an 81-78 victory over Florida.

The Golden Eagles erased an 11-point deficit on the way to their seventh straight victory. Next up for the Summit League Tournament champions, who eliminated No. 2 seed Ohio State in the first round, is a matchup with No. 3 seed Arkansas next weekend. 

“As I told the guys, we’re not going to let somebody put a number in front of our name and tell us that that’s our worth, or that’s our value,” Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills said. “We’re not capitulating to anybody here.”

Obanor scored 28 points and Abmas (pronounced ACE-mus), the regular-season national leading scorer, finished with 26 as the Golden Eagles (18-10) closed the game on a 25-11 run to overcome the 11-point lead Florida held with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Oral Roberts joins Florida Gulf Coast — those guys from “Dunk City” — as the only No. 15 seeds to reach the round of 16 in tournament history. The private evangelical university in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has won twice in the tournament for the first time since 1974 when it reached the region final before losing to Kansas. 

The Oral Roberts fans inside Indiana Farmers Coliseum chanted “Cinderella” during a wild celebration after the victory. 

The chance to reach the Sweet 16 was a message hammered home by Mills after the opening victory over Ohio State. If they enjoyed beating the Buckeyes, Mills said, a week reveling in moving onto the next round would be even better. 

They’ll get that chance.


Trying to defend a three-point lead with under 6 seconds left, Oklahoma’s Elijah Harkless played it perfectly.

Harkless fouled Missouri’s Drew Buggs as he dribbled, putting him at the line with 2.1 seconds remaining — which wasn’t enough — and the Sooners slipped by the ninth-seeded Tigers to win 72-68 on Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said his strategy is always to foul up three in the final 6 seconds of a game. But that decisive Missouri possession started with 17 seconds left and there was no timeout for the Sooners’ coaches to tell their players what to do.

“It’s one thing to kind of plan on doing it, it’s another thing to make the play that E.J. did, and actually get the foul,” Kruger said. “Elijah made a very good, heads-up play right there.”

Eighth-seeded Oklahoma (16-10) is on to the second round for fourth time in the last six tournaments and will face unbeaten No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Monday in the West Region. 

The Sooners pulled out to an eight-point lead with 1:08 left behind Austin Reaves (23 points) and Brady Manek (19 points), but Dru Smith made two 3-pointers in the final minute to keep the pressure on and pull Missouri within 70-67 with 46.7 seconds to go.

Smith led the Tigers (16-10) with 20 points. Jeremiah Tilmon had 16 points and 14 rebounds in his final college game, pulling his jersey over his head as he left the court.

“Everybody out there was going hard and nobody was expecting to lose so it just got really emotional out there walking off the court,” Tilmon said.

Reaves missed a jumper late that gave Missouri a possession to tie. Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin said the Sooners made it tough to get the ball back to Smith and then things broke down.

They fumbled the ball around to waste some precious seconds, and then Harkless smartly fouled Buggs, reaching at his dribbling hand, to prevent the 3-point attempt the Tigers needed.

Buggs made the first and missed the second on purpose. Jalen Hill grabbed the rebound for the Sooners, was fouled and made two more free throws to wrap it up a quintessential 8-9 game between the former Big 12 rivals. The lead changed nine times and never reached double digits for either team.

“You’ve got to be composed,” Reaves said. “Late in the year we dropped some of those (close) games. I feel like it was similar tonight, but we came out on the better end of the stick this time.”

Martin decided to go with Buggs in the backcourt down the stretch over Xavier Pinson, who came in tied for the team lead in scoring.

“I think really we got into a flow with Buggs,” Martin said. “We got a real flow, we got back in the game with Buggs, and it just went from there and I thought Buggs did a great job on both sides of the basketball.”

Both teams limped into the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma ended the season losing five of six — all by seven points or fewer — in the tough Big 12.

Missouri went 3-6 in its final nine in the Southeastern Conference.


Oregon State embraced the role of the Hickory Huskers — results and all.

Hours before their second-round NCAA Tournament game against Oklahoma State, the Beavers’ basketball Twitter account posted a video of center Roman Silva carrying guard Gianni Hunt to the basket on his shoulders to measure the rim’s height. 

It recreated a scene from the 1986 movie “Hoosiers,” in which small-town Hickory’s coach tried to help his team relax about playing at massive Butler Fieldhouse. Hickory went on to win that fictional state title. On Sunday, the building now known as Hinkle Fieldhouse was the site of a real-life underdog story.

Ethan Thompson scored 26 points and No. 12 seed Oregon State neutralized Oklahoma State and star freshman Cade Cunningham, rolling to an 80-70 upset.

Oregon State (19-12) was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 and had to win the conference tournament just to make the NCAA field. The Beavers pulled that off, then cruised past No. 5 seed Tennessee in the first round. They became the third double-digit seed to reach this year’s Sweet 16, joining 15 seed Oral Roberts and Syracuse, an 11.

“We’ve always had that confidence,” Thompson said. “But it kind of took us — we had to go to take a further step and kind of believe in ourselves and trust in each other. And as you can see, these wins that we’ve been having have been great team efforts.”

Maurice Calloo, who transferred from Oklahoma State, scored 15 points and Jarod Lucas also had 15 for the Beavers, who advanced to play eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago in a Midwest Region Sweet 16 matchup that few could have predicted. Loyola overmatched No. 1 seed Illinois earlier Sunday.

Cunningham, a first-team All-American and possible top NBA draft pick, scored 24 points for Oklahoma State (21-9), but the fourth-seeded Cowboys rushed shots down the stretch and at times failed to get him the ball. 

Cunningham is prepared to move on to the NBA.

“It’s been special,” Cunningham said. “I think that’s the best way to describe it. I think the biggest thing is I surrounded myself around great people, more than anything that’s the thing I’m most proud of. That’s the thing, I feel like I’ve grown up the most by being around good people who pushed me to be somebody good on the court and off the court. I’m going to miss it, for sure.”

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