SIOUX FALLS, S.D.—In a semi-carbon copy of the earlier meeting between the two schools, the IUPUI basketball team built a huge lead and had to cling for dear life down the stretch before surviving with a 69-65 win over Oral Roberts in The Summit League Semifinals on Monday night. With the victory, the Jaguars move on to a Summit League finals matchup with Oakland on Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. on ESPN2.
"We beat a really good team tonight," IUPUI Head Coach Ron Hunter said. "We knew they'd make a run. It was like when we played at our place, we knew they'd make a run. They're a really tough basketball team.
IUPUI (24-9) led 42-25 at the half and upped the advantage to 21 three minutes in when junior Leroy Nobles swished a three from the left wing. The lead was still 19 after a Robert Glenn layup at the 11:36 mark, but ORU changed its defensive strategy to begin melting the Jaguars' lead. A combination of Jaguars' turnovers and ORU makes flipped the momentum in a hurry.
Ten straight points made it 56-47 with 7:56 left until sophomore Alex Young temporarily stopped the bleeding at the free throw line. However, ORU kept the heat on, finally taking the lead on a pair of Dominique Morrison free throws at the 4:22 mark.
Defensively, the Jaguars began getting stops, prohibiting ORU from applying the press and allowing IUPUI to get into its offense. On its next possession, Glenn setup Billy Pettiford for a layup making it 62-61 with 3:30 left. After Morrison misfired on a three, Nobles connected on a clutch three, making it a four point game. The two teams traded baskets before Warren Niles missed an off balanced three with 41 seconds left.
Nobles kept the door open by missing a pair of free throws, but senior Jon Avery ended ORU's hopes by erasing a Ken Holdman layup attempt, leading to two John Ashworth makes at the foul line.
Glenn finished with a game-high 18 points on 9-of-15 shooting and Nobles scored 17, hitting 4-of-5 from deep. Young finished with 16, but turned the ball over eight times before fouling out with over five minutes left.
Summit League Newcomer of the Year Michael Craion led ORU with 20 points and Niles added 13. Freshman center Damen Bell-Holter tossed in 11 off the bench.
IUPUI shot 56 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three for the second straight game. The win also extended the Jaguars' winning streak to six-in-a-row, snapping ORU's season-best winning spell. In the meeting between the two schools in Indianapolis, IUPUI built a 15-point halftime lead before having to go to overtime to defeat the Golden Eagles at Conseco Fieldhouse.
IUPUI and Oakland split the season series with both teams winning on their home floor. The Jaguars' win in Indianapolis was the only blemish on the Golden Grizzlies' league slate.
"We've now been to the finals five times in the 10 years we've been in the league and in all four cities we've played in," Hunter said. "That says something about our program.
"It's going to be fun tomorrow night. They're going to be ready to play and I think my guys are going to be ready to play."