For the first time in Scott Sutton’s 18 years as head coach of the ORU Golden Eagles, the basketball team has failed to make the conference tournament. In fact, it may be the first time ever, as far as anyone at ORU can remember.
Last Wednesday, the Golden Eagles played their final home game of the season, an 82-80 loss to North Dakota State, and finished the year with an 8-22 overall record, 4-12 in the Summit League. It’s only the fifth time in school history the basketball team has failed to win at least 10 games.
ORU finishes ninth, out of nine teams, in the Summit League standings and only the top eight teams advance to the post-season tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D., which begins this Saturday. South Dakota is the No. 1 seed entering the tournament, followed by North Dakota State, Omaha, Denver, South Dakota State, Fort Wayne, IUPUI, and Western Illinois.
There were a handful of games this season the Golden Eagles could have, or should have, won. They held leads of at least 10 points in the second half before losing games to North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Denver. Many of the games were close, in fact, ORU lost 10 games by fewer than eight points. Winning half of those would have put the Golden Eagles over 10 wins on the year and likely would have put them in the Summit League Tournament.
Following the game on Wednesday, the Golden Eagles honored four seniors on the squad; Aaron Young, Jalen Bradley, Isaac Gilliam, and Aaron Anderson, and red-shirt junior Darian Harris.
I’ve never been a proponent of making a coaching change just for the sake of stirring things up, regardless of the team or sport, however, it’s certainly been on the mind of many ORU fans this season. One sign of a lack of interest in the basketball team has been the dwindling attendance at the games. That’s never a good sign for an athletic program or its leadership, and in this case, the fall guy might be the basketball coaching staff.
Ironically, other schools were courting Sutton just a couple of years ago, but he decided to keep his family in Tulsa and continue to coach at ORU. Now, it appears a change might be imminent, whether we like it or not.
ORU WOMEN IN TOURNEY
Unlike the men, the ORU women have advanced to the Summit League Tournament as the No. 6 seed, and will play their first game in Sioux Falls against No. 3 seed South Dakota State (21-7 overall, 12-4 Summit League), Sunday, 2:30 p.m. CST.
ORU won their final game of the regular season at home last Saturday, beating North Dakota State, 71-64. Returning to the lineup after missing seven games with a foot injury was Jordan Gilbert, just in time for a tune-up going into the conference tournament. Gilbert contributed five points and one assist in the game.
The Golden Eagles finished the regular season with a 15-14 record overall, 7-9 in the Summit League.
Western Illinois holds the top seed entering the tournament, followed by IUPUI, SDSU, South Dakota, Omaha, ORU, NDSU, and Denver. Finishing ninth in the standings and not making the women’s tournament was Fort Wayne.
I will be at the Summit League Tournament as a member of the ORU Pep Band trumpet section, and covering the ORU women for the Tulsa Beacon. You can keep up with the action by following my tweets @JeffBSports.