Tahlequah Daily Press

December 19, 2012

Oral Roberts no match for No. 4 Arizona

By JOHN MARSHALL
Associated Press

— TUCSON, Ariz. — Oral Roberts has a history of taking down giants, pulling off an upset against a team from a power conference every season but one since 2002-03.

The Golden Eagles never stood a chance of adding Arizona to the list.

Struggling against Arizona’s defensive pressure and offensive efficiency, Oral Roberts fell into a big early hole and never recovered in an 89-64 loss to the fourth-ranked Wildcats on Tuesday night.

“I thought our guys would battle a little more given what was at stake, playing a top-5 team on the road,” Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said.

Oral Roberts (5-5) struggled to find a rhythm offensively against the long and quick Wildcats, turning it over 17 times while shooting 38 percent. Leading scorer Warren Niles had 22 points, but shot 6 of 15 and had eight turnovers, with most of his scoring coming after the game was out of reach.

The Golden Eagles had just as much trouble defensively against Arizona, allowing the Wildcats to hit eight 3-pointers and score 42 points inside.

Shawn Glover added 18 points for Oral Roberts.

“The only bright spot was that we hit free throws (12 of 12) and on the other side we did a good job without fouling,” Sutton said.

Arizona (9-0) pulled off the improbable against then-No. 5 Florida on Saturday, overcoming a six-point deficit in the final 56 seconds for a victory that still had the campus buzzing Monday. The Wildcats leave Thursday to play in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, so it would have been easy to lose focus against Oral Roberts.

Arizona had no trouble staying in the present, hitting shots from everywhere and hounding the Golden Eagles into mistakes while racing out to a 17-point first-half lead. The Wildcats kept rolling in the second half, shooting 57 percent overall and scoring 27 points off turnovers.

Mark Lyons led Arizona with 17 points and seven assists. Grant Jerrett added 15 points and fellow freshman Brandon Ashley scored 14. Solomon Hill had 12 points, six steals, six rebounds and five assists. Nick Johnson added 12 points and four steals while joining Hill in frustrating Golden Eagles’ leading scorer Warren Niles most of the night.

The Wildcats also had a 26-7 advantage off the bench, heading to Hawaii with their best start since opening the 1987-88 season with 12 straight wins.

“If you want to be labeled as a great team or a team that has a chance to win a national championship, you have to get over games like the Florida game,” Hill said. “You need to have focus and we were able to do that.”

The Wildcats capped one of the more memorable days in the history of the athletic program Saturday night, knocking off Florida 65-64 after Lyons capped the big rally by flipping a shot over the outstretched arm of Gators’ 6-foot-9 center Patric Young with 7 seconds left. Earlier in the day, Arizona’s football team scored twice in the final minute to beat Nevada 49-48 in the New Mexico Bowl.

The victory moved the Wildcats up four spots in the AP Top 25 for their best ranking since 2004 with their second trip to an exotic location — they played in the Bahamas over the summer — just around the bend.

The Golden Eagles appeared to be a team Arizona couldn’t afford to look past.

Oral Roberts won 27 games last season and was picked to win the Southland Conference this year. The Golden Eagles also have a history of knocking off opponents from power conferences under coach Sutton, including No. 8 Xavier at home last year, No. 13 New Mexico in 2009 and No. 3 Kansas in 2006.

They also have Niles, an athletic, 6-foot-5 guard who’s 12th nationally with 20.9 points per game.

Turns out, there was no worry about a letdown.

Crisp on offense and aggressive on defense, the Wildcats hit five of their first six shots and forced five turnovers in the first four minutes to take a quick eight-point lead.

Arizona didn’t let up, either, pushing the lead to 45-31 by halftime after hitting 17 of 27 shots, including 7 of 11 from 3-point range. Lyons had 14 points, Johnson 12.

“They came out (focused); we needed them to come out flat,” Sutton said. “I think they hit six of their first 10 3s and it was an uphill battle for us.”

One they never recovered from.