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Golden Eagles’ Cinderella run ends in Sweet 16

ORU came SO CLOSE to becoming the first 15 seed ever in the Elite Eight

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Oral Roberts at Arkansas Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles took the nation by storm in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and on Saturday afternoon, they came tantalizingly close to making history..

Oral Roberts had a chance to become the first 15 seed ever to reach the Elite Eight. However, Arkansas’s Davonte Davis had other plans, hitting a game-winning contested mid-range jump shot with 3.1 seconds left to lift the 3 seed Razorbacks to a 72-70 win.

Golden Eagles head coach Paul Miss drew up a final play that gave Max Abmas a chance to win the game with a three point buzzer-beater, but the shot was just a touch long.

It was one of those games that we will remember for a long time. There were five lead changes in the final four minutes and the game came down to the last shot. Arkansas clinched its first Elite Eight appearance since 1995, coming back from a 12-point second half deficit.

The loss ended wha was an iconic tournament run for Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles became the second 15 seed to make the Sweet 16, slaying two of college basketball’s more iconic programs in dramatic fashion. They then pushed a top-10 Arkansas’s team to the brink.

Mills was proud of his team after a tough loss

“What I am most proud of is their resiliency throughout the year,” he said.

The Golden Eagles used seven first half threes to build a seven-point halftime lead. Oral Roberts suffocated the Razorbacks’ potent offense forcing them to shoot 36.2 % from the field.

But the Razorbacks used their elite athleticism to manufacture second-chance opportunities make key shots late. Really, Oral Roberts did a good job of keeping its foot on the gas. Oral Roberts built a 12-point lead at the end of the first media timeout of the second half but could not build off that momentum to hold on for a historic win.

ORU lived and died by the 3

Oral Roberts ranked in the top 15 in the country in made threes and a good shooting day was always going to be a major key to success. Mills was able to run a lot of creative sets to give his teams open opportunities, they just couldn’t cash in enough in the second half. The Golden Eagles hit five of their first nine threes and it looked like they had a soft Cinderella touch from deep. But the second half rims weren’t as grateful. Oral Roberts made just one three-point shot in the second half and finished the game 8-31 from deep. The three-ball accounted for about half of the team’s shot attempts. If Oral Roberts could have just converted one or two more in the second half, this would have been a different game. After making seven threes in the first half, the Eagles went cold.

Second half offensive rebounds

In the first game between the teams this year — an 87-76 Razorback win — Arkansas quickly erased a similar first-half deficit, securing 24 offensive rebounds along the way. In the first half of this one, the Golden Eagles held the rebounding advantage. That didn’t last. Arkansas crashed the boards to fuel an 8-1 run late in the second half, with Devonte Davis tying the game on a put-back with seven minutes left. Arkansas had 12 offensive rebounds in the second half.

Jalen Tate saved Arkansas

Oral Roberts held Razorbacks star Moses Moody to 4-20 shooting on Saturday. Fortunately for the Razorbacks, their other guard, Jalen Tate, stepped in by scoring 22 points on 9-17 shooting to go with six assists.