Tuesday, March 8, 2005
OU captures NCAA bid with victory over Oral Roberts
Proving that defense, free throw shooting and a little luck wins championships, OU's Golden Grizzlies shocked No. 1 seed Oral Roberts University in the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament championship game 61-60 to advance to their first Division I NCAA Tournament championship bid.
The Grizzlies dramatic win at the UMAC John Q. Hammons Arena in Tulsa, Okla., was culminated by junior Pierre Dukes three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left and the team trailing the Golden Eagles 60-58. Dukes clutch shooting sealed the Golden Eagles fate, but it was senior Cortney Scott’s 19 points and senior Rawle Marshall’s 18 points that paced the Grizzlies. The No. 7 seed Grizzlies are in the tournament for the first time in the program's seven seasons at Division I play.
“We were lucky,” said Coach Greg Kampe. “For us to be able to win this game is incredible. This proves that it’s never over until the last second.”
The Grizzlies victory marks the first time in Mid-Continent Conference history that a No. 7 seed has won the post-season tournament. Three teams advanced to the championship previously, but all were defeated. Oakland's 12-18 overall record makes the Grizzlies the fourth team in four years to advance to the big dance with a sub .500 record.
Despite a sluggish first half, the Grizzlies ended the session with a 28-27 lead. That lead grew in the second half thanks to the efforts of Scott and Marshall. The Grizzlies opened up a 42-34 lead following halftime only to see the Golden Eagles ride the momentum of a loud hometown crowd of more than 6,000 and go on a 9-0 run to take a 44-42 lead.
The teams exchanged leads five times over the next five minutes with the Golden Eagles taking a 59-57 lead with 2:20 minutes to play. OU's suffocating defense, which propelled them to victories over No. 2 seed UMKC and No. 6 seed Chicago State earlier in the tournament, allowed Oral Roberts only a single point the rest of the game.
Oakland took possession after the Golden Eagles' Jonathan Bluitt hit one of two free throws to make it 60-58 with 44.8 seconds remaining. The Grizzlies found Dukes on the left side and despite tight defense by an Oral Robert’s defender, his shot was nothing but net.
The Golden Eagles last second desperation shot by Ken Tutt banked high off the rim as time expired, and Oral Roberts' players hung their heads and clutched their knees while Kampe and the Golden Grizzlies huddled and celebrated near midcourt.
“I am so happy for my school. It took us four years to get to the dance, but it's worth it,” said Kampe, who after 21 years at the helm of OU’s program make him the 12th longest tenured Division I basketball coach. "It's a fairy-tale story."
The Grizzlies tournament fate will not be decided until Sunday, March 13, with two scenarios possible. OU could be placed in the tournament’s pre-tournament game on Tuesday, March 15, in Dayton, Ohio, with the winning team becoming a No. 16 seed in the first round of the tournament or they could automatically be placed in the big dance as a 16 seed. Either way, the Grizzlies will face an uphill battle as no No. 16 seed has ever defeated a No. 1 seed in the tournament’s history.
Tournament seedings and match-ups will be announced live on CBS on Sunday, March 13, at 6 p.m. during the NCAA selection show. ESPN also will be providing coverage of Selection Sunday at 6 p.m.
A Selection Sunday celebration is being planned on campus at 5 p.m. in the Athletics Center O'Rena where the NCAA selection show will be shown on a big-screen TV. Golden Grizzlies fans are invited to come out and support the team as they find out who and where they will play in the NCAA Tournament.
The tournament officially begins Thursday, March 17, and runs until Monday, April 4, where a champion will be crowned in St. Louis, Mo.
See the photos from the Mid-Con Tournament final. Also, follow the Golden Grizzlies on their Road to the NCAA Tournament by visiting the Web page on The News @ OU that is dedicated to offering up-to-date stories, information and photos as well as related links concerning the team’s historical first trip to the national tournament.