The Misti Cussen Era opened in fine fashion on Friday evening as Oral Roberts University knocked off the University of Tulsa, 64-53, in the 2012 edition of the PSO Mayor's Cup game. Senior Kevi Luper led all players with 23 points in the victory.
The victory snaps ORU's two-game losing streak to Tulsa and runs ORU's winning streak to four games in season-opening contests. The Golden Eagles have also won nine straight home openers after Friday night's triumph.
Defense led the way for the Golden Eagles (1-0) on Friday night, as they forced Tulsa into 23 turnovers and held the Golden Hurricane (0-1) to 33.9% shooting.
ORU's defense was especially strong in the second half, when Tulsa shot just 25.0% from the floor.
Luper's 23 led all scorers, but freshman Taylor Cooper made an equally notable splash in her collegiate debut with five three-pointers and 19 points. Cooper also went 4-for-4 from the free throw line, helping Cussen's club ice the game with crucial points from the charity stripe.
ORU shot 44.0% as a team and out-rebounded the Golden Hurricane, 40-38. Senior Savanna Buck led all players with a career-high 12 boards.
Tulsa was led Ashley Clark, who scored a team-high 12 points in the collegiate debut. All-Conference USA performer Taleya Mayberry, who scored a career-high 30 points in her last visit to the Mabee Center in 2010, was held to just 10 points and fouled out of the game with 1:12 left.
ORU took control of the game early on, as a 7-0 run gave the home side an 11-5 lead with 13:47 on the clock. But Tulsa responded with a 7-0 spurt of their own, capped by back-to-back Mayberry baskets, to build an 18-14 lead at the 9:06 mark.
ORU closed the half in control, however, scoring eight of the period's final 10 points. A jumper by Luper in the half's waning seconds gave the squad a 38-30 lead at the intermission.
The Adair native was at her best in the first half, scoring 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
Tulsa was ice cold to start the second half, and ORU took advantage with a methodical 12-2 run. The Golden Eagle lead crested at the 12:37 mark, when Luper hit a pair of free throws to give ORU a 50-32 edge
Though the Hurricane tried to rally, ORU held firm for the majority of the second half. A free throw by Jaci Bigham gave the Golden Eagles a 57-41 advantage with 5:28 left, and victory seemed imminent for the home team.
The Hurricane did have one push in them however, scoring the next eight points of the game. A fast break Clark layup with 1:40 remaining cut the lead to 57-49, forcing a timeout.
Clutch free throw shooting would propel ORU to the victory. The Golden Eagles sank six straight in the game's final 1:03 and held on for the 11-point victory.
Several upperclassmen turned in solid under-the-radar performances to aid in the victorious effort. Bigham scored six points, grabbed six rebounds and dished six assists in 37 minutes of action, and she led all players with four steals. Junior Sarah Shelton was also a strong presence in her ORU debut, with five points and a block in 23 minutes of reserve action.
The Golden Eagles take a week off before returning to action on Friday, November 16 against UT-Arlington. Tip time in Arlington, Texas is scheduled for 2 pm CT.