Oral Roberts University overcame several rallies and a slew of tough breaks to knock off Southland Conference leader Central Arkansas, 70-60, on Saturday afternoon at the Mabee Center. Alexus Wilson and Dorottya Balla led ORU (3-10, 2-1 SLC) with 13 points each.
ORU was without several key veterans down the stretch but still held on for an important conference win. Jenni Bryan did not suit up with an injury, and fellow junior Tysia Manuel was hampered by an elbow contusion suffered earlier in the 1st half. In addition, ORU's top two post players, Sarah Shelton and Bernadett Balla, fouled out in the 2nd half. Still, the Golden Eagles persevered for their second SLC victory of 2013-14.
Wilson and the younger Balla led ORU in the scoring column, while the elder Balla chipped in 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Kaylan Mayberry added nine points and Christian Key had eight in a very balanced scoring performance.
Central Arkansas (8-6, 2-1 SLC) was knocked out of the top spot in the SLC standings after suffering their first league loss. Courtney Duever led UCA with 16 points, and Maggie Proffitt added 13.
ORU shot 44.4% from the field, including a blistering 66.7% mark in the 1st half. The Bears finished the game with a 39.3% shooting percentage.
UCA raced out to a 6-2 lead, but the game was very tight through the early portion of the 1st half and both teams took turns with the lead. The Balla sisters finally broke the game open in ORU's favor, scoring all 10 points as part of a 10-5 run that gave ORU a 30-25 advantage with 5:02 left in the half.
Later in the half the elder Balla scored six straight points as part of a 10-4 ORU run. Wilson capped the spurt with a running layup, giving the Golden Eagles a 42-32 edge, the first double-digit lead of the game, late in the half. ORU went into the locker room with a 42-34 lead.
An 11-2 run early in the 2nd half was key to ORU building up some cushion. The younger Balla capped the run with two free throws at the 10:39 mark to give the Golden Eagles a 53-41 lead.
That cushion proved to be important as the Bears was able to mount another run. Two UCA free throws closed ORU's lead to 59-56 with 3:41 left. ORU was dealt a blow as Shelton fouled out on the play, while the elder Balla fouled out less than a minute later.
But ORU held on thanks to clutch free throw shooting down the stretch. The Golden Eagles hit seven of their eight free throws in the game's final three minutes, and the lead never got smaller than three points. ORU ended the game on a 7-2 run and won by 10 points.
ORU was strong around the rim on Saturday, blocking seven shots. Noora Jaervikangas had three blocks, while Shelton added two. In addition, ORU outrebounded UCA, 37-35.
The victory is ORU's seventh straight over Central Arkansas.
Following Saturday's game, ORU will turn their attention to their first Southland Conference road game of the season. The Golden Eagles will face transitional SLC member Abilene Christian, a non-NCAA Division I counter, on Thursday, January 16. Tipoff in Abilene Christian is scheduled for 7 pm CT.