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.
|Year||No. 15 vs. No. 2 matchup||Score|
|1991||Richmond defeated Syracuse||73-69|
|1993||Santa Clara defeated Arizona||64-61|
|1997||Coppin State defeated South Carolina||78-65|
|2001||Hampton defeated Iowa State||58-57|
|2012||Lehigh defeated Duke||75-70|
|2012||Norfolk State defeated Missouri||86-84|
|2013||Florida Gulf Coast defeated Georgetown||78-68|
|2016||Middle Tennessee defeated Michigan State||90-81|
|2018||Oral Roberts defeated Ohio State||75-72 (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.