Niles Scores 30 In Great Alaska Shootout Opener
Warren Niles posted his second career 30-point game, leading Oral Roberts (3-1) to a 75-66 victory over Loyola Marymount (2-2) Thursday night in the opening round of the Great Alaska Shootout.
With the victory, ORU has won the opening round of the tournament in each of its two appearances (2005). Niles' other 30-point game was a career-high 39 points at IUPUI his freshman year, coming close to that mark on Thursday with 33 points. Niles was also honored as the Carrs/Safeway Player of the Game for his performance.
Along with Niles, Shawn Glover had 11 points and Steven Roundtree added 10, while Alaska-native Damen Bell-Holter continued to pound the glass pulling in 13 rebounds to go with his eight points.
ORU shot 52 percent (26-50) for the game, including a sizzling 64 percent (16-25) in the second half as the out-scored LMU 45-39 in the frame.
The Lions were led by Anthony Ireland who had a 30-point game of his own, and Ashley Hamilton added 15, but it wasn't enough to overcome the hot-shooting Golden Eagles.
In addition to seven 3-pointers, ORU dominated the paint as well, out-scoring LMU 36-30 near the basket and out-rebounding the Lions 32-29.
The Golden Eagles trailed the majority of the first half and were back as many as five points, but grabbed a late lead in the half after knocking down free throws, taking a 30-27 advantage into the break. It was 23-18 Loyola Marymount at the 6:58 mark in the first half after a Godwin Okonji layup, but a Mikey Manghum 3-pointer sparked ORU and the Golden Eagls closed the half on a 12-4 run, with half of those points coming from the free throw line.
ORU kept the momentum coming out of the locker room and scored the first seven points of the second half to quickly make it a 10-point game. They would continue to push the tempo and led by as many as 18 (64-46) midway through the second half.
Just as it looked like the Golden Eagles could cruise to the opening-round victory, the Lions stormed back and cut the lead to eight. Just as it got under 10, Korey Billbury grabbed a big offensive rebound and Glover came through with a big 3-pointer to make it 11 against at 69-58 with just under four minutes to go in the game. Until the final minute, the lead would never get back under double-figures, but even after an Ireland 3-pointer made it 73-64 with 46 seconds to play, the lead was never in serious danger.
ORU's second-round opponent is still to be determined as they face the winner of the later game between Charlotte and Texas State. That game will be played at 9:30 p.m. Alaska time, 12:30 a.m. in the Central time zone.