Oral Roberts University's senior class stood tall on Saturday afternoon, guiding the Golden Eagles to a 68-64 win over Stephen F. Austin. With the win, ORU improves to 11-11 (8-4 Southland Conference).
Senior Kevi Luper led the Golden Eagles with 30 points in the win, while fellow senior Jaci Bigham added a season-high 26 points to go with eight assists.
Bigham's first assist of the game was a big one, as a feed to Sarah Shelton with 18:33 left in the first half was the 604th of the McAlester native's career, setting a new ORU career record.
Luper was 14-for-25 from the floor, while Bigham hit her first six three-point attempts and finished 6-for-8 from downtown.
Daylyn Harris led SFA (10-13, 5-7 SLC) with 16 points.
ORU shot 45.8% for the game. The Ladyjacks shot at a 50.0% clip, but hit just 40.0% of their field goal attempts in the second half.
ORU got off to a great start, turning the Ladyjacks over and feasting on the fast break opportunities. A basket from Luper at the 10:01 mark gave the Golden Eagles a 24-14 lead.
But the Ladyjacks responded as ORU's defense fell off. SFA scored 13 straight points, capped by a Brittany Matthew three-pointer, to take their first lead of the game, at 27-24, with 7:26 left in the half.
The Golden Eagles trailed by as many as five points before seniors worked to get ORU back on top. Bigham and Luper hit three-pointers on ORU's final two possessions to give Misti Cussen's team a 40-39 lead, and they were tied with the Ladyjacks, 40-40, at the half.
Luper scored 17 points in the opening period, and Bigham added 14 points and five assists.
The Golden Eagles got off to a good start in the second half, with a Bigham three-pointer stretching the lead to 50-44 with 15:18 left in the game. But SFA came right back, tying the game at 50-all on an Annette Davis free throw with 12:40 on the clock.
Bigham and Luper scored all of ORU's second half points until the 4:37 mark, when Shelton came through with a massive basket. The layup gave ORU some breathing room, at 61-57.
But the home team responded, taking a 62-61 lead with 2:59 left on a Matthew three-ball. ORU, who went scoreless for the game's final 2:31 in a loss to Northwestern State on Thursday night, needed to rally.
And rally they did. Bigham gave the visitors a 64-62 lead with two free throws at the 2:18 mark, and Luper added a basket right at the 2:00 mark to make the score 66-62.
ORU never trailed again. Free throws by Bigham with 13 seconds left gave ORU a 68-64 advantage, and senior Savanna Buck made a huge steal on the ensuing SFA possession to preserve the victory.
With the win and McNeese State's earlier loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, ORU now has sole possession of third place in the SLC standings, at 8-4.
Bigham, Luper and Buck return to the Mabee Center to kick off the final home stand of their collegiate careers on Thursday, February 14 when the Golden Eagles host Sam Houston State. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 pm CT.