Oral Roberts University kept their Southland Conference Tournament hopes alive and earned their sixth straight Mabee Center win on Thursday night in a wild 84-78 victory over Lamar. Christian Key paced the Golden Eagles with a career-best 26 points.
ORU (8-17, 7-8 Southland Conference) moved into a tie for 9th in the SLC standings with the win. The Golden Eagles are now just one-half game behind Southeastern Louisiana for the 8th and final SLC Tournament position, and they likely need wins in two of their final three games to secure a postseason spot.
"Sometimes wins aren't pretty," said head coach Misti Cussen. "We had to really grind our teeth to win this one, but I will take that W."
Cussen's team shot a season-high 59.6% from the field and had five players in double-figures for the first time this year. Key led the squad with 26, while Sarah Shelton scored 13, Bernadett Balla and Atoe' Jackson had 12 each, and Kaylan Mayberry pumped in 10.
Balla led the way with 11 rebounds, her fourth straight double-figure rebounding effort, and she recorded her first career double-double.
JaMeisha Edwards led Lamar with 19 points, while Kiandra Bowers and Dominique Edwards scored 16 each. Lamar forced ORU into 27 turnovers and committed just eight, but they shot only 31.3% for the game.
Shelton blocked three shots in the game and now ranks 8th in ORU history with 89 blocks. Key, meanwhile, hit a trio of three-pointers and now occupies the 7th spot on ORU's career three-point list, with 143.
Lamar got out of the gates quickly and soon built an eight-point advantage thanks to ORU giveaways. A three-point play from Bowers gave the visitors a 25-17 lead with 9:35 left in the 1st half.
But ORU responded with a shooting barrage. The Golden Eagles scored nine straight points to take the lead, 27-25, on two Jackson free throws, and the advantage continued to grow late in the half. A three-pointer by Noora Jaervikangas right before the break gave the home team a 40-31 lead at intermission.
ORU closed the half on a 23-6 run and shot 60.9% from the floor. Jackson and Key each scored 10 points in the opening period.
Soon the lead crested to its highest point, as ORU came out of the locker room firing. A Balla free throw gave the Golden Eagles a 50-36 edge with 16:22 left.
But turnovers continued to be a problem for ORU, and soon Lamar was cutting into the gap. A Gia Ayers basket directly off of an ORU giveaway tied the game at 65-all with 8:11 left, and one possession later Bowers stole the ball, raced down the court, and scored uncontested to give the Lady Cardinals a 67-65 lead.
ORU quickly fell behind by five, but they mounted a rally in short order. A stick back by Tysia Manuel with 3:57 left tied the game at 73-all.
ORU retook the lead one possession later on a Key foul shot, and they soon pumped their advantage back to four points. Key buried a contested jumper with just :57 left to make the score 80-76.
Lamar continued to challenge ORU, but Key fought the Lady Cardinals off with clutch foul shooting. The senior buried four straight attempts in the game's final minute to carry ORU to a six-point win.
The Golden Eagles finish their 2013-14 home schedule on Sunday, March 2, when they face Sam Houston State. Seniors Key and Shelton will be honored prior to their final Mabee Center appearance, and tipoff is booked for 1 pm CT. Tickets are available by calling 495-7ORU.