Oral Roberts shocks Ohio State, becomes only ninth No. 15 seed to upset No. 2 seed in NCAA Tournament

Oral Roberts became just the ninth No. 15 seed to ever beat a No. 2 seed in an NCAA Tournament game on Friday, when the Eagles shocked Ohio State 75-72 in overtime for the program's first victory in the Big Dance since 1974. Max Abmas entered as the nation's leading scorer and put up 29 points for ORU, which advances to play No. 7 seed Florida on Sunday in a second round game.

The game went to overtime, but Abmas and teammate Kevin Obanor helped dominate the extra period, despite never getting a rest during the game's 45 minutes. Obanor finished with 30 points as he and Abmas combined to score all but 16 of Oral Roberts' points in the game.

It's the first time since 2016 that a No. 15 seed has defeated a No. 2, although the outcome has become more common over the past decade. Dating back to 2012, a No. 15 seed has now defeated a No. 2 seed five times over the past nine NCAA Tournaments with Middle Tennessee's victory over Michigan State in 2016 being the last before Friday.

While Ohio State's poor 3-point shooting effort was an aberration for the Buckeyes, who were favored by 15 points at William Hill Sportsbook, Oral Roberts' victory was anything but a fluke. Here are the takeaways that help explain the history that was made Friday.

Oral Roberts' early tests pay off 

Many mid-major schools missed out on big nonconference opportunities due to the scheduling challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Eagles played five NCAA Tournament teams from major conferences early this season and nearly beat a couple of them. That experience paid off -- and so did the unique rigors of Summit League play. The league frequently staged two-game series' between teams on consecutive days in order to reduce the amount of travel needed during the pandemic. Enduring that physical grind may have paid off for the Eagles as Abmas and Obanor each played a full 45 minutes. Fellow starters Kareem Thompson Carlos Jurgens played 44 and 42 minutes, respectively.

"I think that definitely prepared me for this moment right here," Abmas told CBS after the game.

YearNo. 15 vs. No. 2 matchupScore
1991Richmond defeated Syracuse73-69
1993Santa Clara defeated Arizona64-61
1997Coppin State defeated South Carolina78-65
2001Hampton defeated Iowa State58-57
2012Lehigh defeated Duke75-70
2012Norfolk State defeated Missouri86-84
2013Florida Gulf Coast defeated Georgetown78-68
2016Middle Tennessee defeated Michigan State90-81
2018Oral Roberts defeated Ohio State75-72 (OT)

Abmas & Obanor

It sounds like a law firm, but it's actually a star college basketball tandem. If you paid close attention to college basketball, there's at least a chance you'd heard of Abmas entering the NCAA Tournament. The 6-foot guard overtook Luka Garza as the nation's leading scorer in points per game late this season while averaging an obscene 34.8 points per game in ORU's final five regular season contests. But Obanor proved that Oral Roberts' run to this point has been anything but a one-man show.

The 6-foot-8 forward has been a force for the Eagles all season, reaching double figures in every game except for one, and he put his versatile skill set on display Friday. Obanor did plenty of damage in the paint and at the free-throw line down the stretch. But unlike what you might expect from a mid-major big man, Obanor is also a 3-point threat, and he proved that against Ohio State by knocking down 5-of-12 tries from beyond the arc. 

In total, Abamas and Obanor combined for 10 of Oral Roberts' 11 made 3-pointers, and Obanor's 11 rebounds were also crucial as he battled admirably with Ohio State star forward E.J. Liddell.

Ohio State's shocking end

After losing four straight games to close the regular season, it appeared the Buckeyes were trending back up after a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State won three games in the event and took Illinois to overtime in the title game before losing 91-88. But a couple key ingredients from Ohio State's success throughout the season were missing Friday. The Buckeyes made just 5-of-23 attempts from 3-point range (21.7%) after entering as a 36.5% 3-point shooting team.

The Buckeyes also missed senior forward Kyle Young, who was out for a third consecutive game due to a concussion suffered in the Big Ten Tournament. Having the 6-foot-8 forward would have helped Ohio State establish a more demonstrative edge in the paint. The program appears to be in a solid place, but the Buckeyes have yet to advance past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament under fourth-year coach Chris Hotlmann, and Friday's outcome will mark a bitter end to an otherwise excellent season.

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@CBSSports via Twitter
March 19, 2021, 9:21 PM
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ORAL ROBERTS DOES IT! A 15 OVER A 2. 30 points for Obanor and 29 for Abmas. Ohio State had its chances but Washington couldn't hit the clutch shots. What a shocking end to the season for Ohio State.

March 19, 2021, 9:20 PM
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@CBSSports via Twitter
March 19, 2021, 9:20 PM
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@OhioStateHoops via Twitter
March 19, 2021, 9:18 PM
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Ohio State not done yet! Buckeyes have Washington at the line trailing 72-69 with 37 seconds still left.

March 19, 2021, 9:15 PM
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Max Abmas!!! His jumper puts Oral Roberts up 72-66. It's really happening, folks. Ohio State is on the verge of going down.

March 19, 2021, 9:10 PM
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Abmas to the FT line after a Liddell bucket. Makes it a two-possession game again. Up to 27 points.

March 19, 2021, 9:10 PM
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Obanor's and-1 bucket gives ORU a two-possession lead. Ohio State ain't even winning the interior battle anymore.

March 19, 2021, 9:08 PM
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Quick reset: Only 8 No. 15 seeds have ever beaten a No. 2 in NCAA Tournament history. Oral Roberts is ahead in overtime against Ohio State with a chance to become No. 9.

March 19, 2021, 9:08 PM
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Obanor with the first bucket of OT as he backs Washington down for a bucket.

March 19, 2021, 9:07 PM
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Obanor and Abmas played all 40 minutes of regulation. What's 5 more when history is on the line?

March 19, 2021, 9:05 PM
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OVERTIME. Washington's last second jumper misses, and we're headed to OT. Big story to watch here is the four fouls on Liddell. He can't afford to pick up No. 5. Bonus basketball ahead. Third OT game of the tournament!

March 19, 2021, 9:03 PM
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Ohio State takes its last time out with Obanor going back to the line for 1 more and ORU trailing by 1.

March 19, 2021, 9:02 PM
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Obanor to the line with a chance to tie at the 14.9 mark. Wow. Oral Roberts has a shot at it here.

March 19, 2021, 9:01 PM
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Liddell about to be at the line with 35 seconds left and Ohio State up 2. Huge moment coming.

March 19, 2021, 8:58 PM
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@CBSSports via Twitter
March 19, 2021, 8:58 PM
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ORU with some good FC pressure out of the timeout forcing an Ohio State timeout. Great finish coming as the Buckeyes still lead by 2 with 1:07 left.

March 19, 2021, 8:56 PM
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Obanor gets it back to a one-score game at the FT line. Narrowly missed an and-1 opportunity, but that's 4 on Liddell. 1:07 to go.

March 19, 2021, 8:54 PM
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@OhioStateHoops via Twitter
March 19, 2021, 8:53 PM
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Huge block by Liddell. Ohio State doesn't want to go home. Backs against the wall for ORU.

March 19, 2021, 8:53 PM
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Liddell makes it a two-possession at the FT line with 2:34 to go. ORU going to need some late heroics.

March 19, 2021, 8:52 PM
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@OhioStateHoops via Twitter
March 19, 2021, 8:51 PM
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Duane Washington with ice in the veins! Huge shot by the guy whose been carrying this team as of late (with a lot of help from Liddell)

March 19, 2021, 8:50 PM
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Max Abmas kinda reminds me of former Marquette star Markus Howard. Undersized guy with a ton of range who also has a mean float game. He's got 26 in this game and is showing why he overtook Luka Garza as the nation's leading scorer entering the NCAA Tournament.

March 19, 2021, 8:49 PM
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