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Texas Tech vs. Oral Roberts | Game Preview

Game Essentials
Date | December 22, 2011
Time | 7:00 pm
Location | Tulsa, OK
TV | Fox College Sports
Radio | Affiliates

Texas Tech Starting 5
Ty Nurse (6-1/180) | 11.0 PPG | 1.2 AST
Javarez Willis (5-11/171) | 7.2 PPG | 2.7 AST
Toddrick Gotcher (6-3/190) | 8.3 PPG | 4.4 REB
Jordan Tolbert (6-7/210) | 14.0 PPG | 6.2 REB
Robert Lewandowski (6-10/256) | 7.2 PPG | 4.7 REB

ORU Starting 5
Roderick Pearson Jr. (6-2/195) | 7.3 PPG | 2.8 APG
Warren Niles (6-5/195) | 10.0 PPG | 2.7 APG
Dominique Morrison (6-6/210) | 16.2 PPG | 4.5 RPG
Michael Craion (6-5/215) | 11.3 PPG | 6.7 RPG
Damen Bell-Holter (6-9/245) | 9.0 PPG | 6.0 RPG


A GOOD DEFENSE AND A GOOD TEAM | ORU held Xavier to 42 points in beating the Musketeers last week, their best win of the year. That's stout no matter how you cut it. For the year, those defensive statistics don't play out like that, as they hold opponents to 45% for the year and only shoot 44% themslves. Still, I've always admired what Scott Sutton has done at Oral Roberts, winning over 59% of his games, which is pretty darned good and he's stayed in Tulsa and built a pretty darned good mid-major program.

REBOUNDING EDGE | Oral Roberts is pretty darned good in the offensive rebounding category, so there's no doubt that the Red Raiders will need to be acutely aware of keeping the Golden Eagles off the boards. ORU averages 37.7% offensive rebounding rate (which is really good). Tolbert, Lew, Crockett and Nash will need to keep ORU off the boards and considering that ORU isn't the best shooting team, only 48.9% eFG%, that's even a bigger reason not to give them any second chances.


MORRISON VS. ???? | Morrison is ORU's best player and if Gillispie rolls out the same starting line-up as he did against Grambling, Luke Adams, Ty Nurse and Javarez Willis, one of those three will have to play defense and try to defend a 6-6/210 player. That's not an easy task for someone that probably has the defensive ability, like Gotcher, but I think that you'll see quite a bit of Gotcher and maybe someone like Jaron Nash guarding Morrison (I know that Nash is sloppy, but he gives a lot of effort).

CRAION VS. TOLBERT | One of the distinct advantages of having a player like Lewandowski start is that I don't think there are many teams that have another post player like Tolbert to play in the middle. So as much as I think that ORU probably has a match-up advantage with Morrison, I definitely think that Texas Tech has an advantage with Tolbert at the power forward spot.


Much thanks to Corey of Summit Madness, which covers the Summit League, for taking the time to answer a few questions (I did the same and will post when I get the link).

UPDATE: Corey at Summit Madness has posted my Q&A portion, so make sure and go take a visit.

DTN: Talk a bit about where ORU is as a team right now given the fact that they just beat an excellent Xavier squad, but have losses against a traditionally good West Virgina team, a loss to UTSA, a blowout loss to OU and what appears to be a close game against Gonzaga.

Summit Madness: Oral Roberts returned about 98 percent of its offensive production from a year ago and entered this season as the preseason favorite in the Summit League. Though the team lost one of its important returners (Ken Holdman) to injury in the preseason, the remaining group has performed well, especially since another player who was battling an injury, Damen Bell-Holter, starting playing regularly again. The squad's only bad loss was the Oklahoma one, as it had a chance to take the lead from WVU in the final minute, loss to UTSA on a running buzzer-beater, and played close against Gonzaga in Spokane. I think the close game against GU and the win at Xavier has given the Golden Eagles a good confidence boost heading into Thursday's game and then ultimately league play. Most important about that Xavier game, in my mind, was the Dominique Morrison finally got hot from beyond the arc. If he can do that consistently to pair with his great driving ability, then it gives ORU one more shooter to help spread defenses and open up the middle for their forwards who play close to the basket.

More after the jump.

DTN: Who are the two players that Texas Tech fans should watch for Oral Roberts?

SM: Since he only played 20 minutes in last year's game due to foul trouble, TTU fans didn't get to see the aforementioned Morrison at his best. He's a 6-foot-6 senior wing who has been a first team selection in the Summit League since his sophomore season. He's the most dangerous player for ORU because he can generate his own shot off the dribble by driving the lane or pulling up for a mid-range jumper. He was a solid three-pointer shooter last year, too, but as mentioned he's struggled there so far this season. He's also a very strong rebounder out of the wing position. Another guy to watch for is Damen Bell-Holter. The 6-foot-9 junior forward had been battling a back injury that limited him early on, but lately he's been playing big minutes and performing really well. His two-point shooting accuracy is down from last year, but in top form he's going to get a bunch of buckets in the paint and be a force on the offensive glass.

DTN: ORU appears to be a very balanced team from a scoring and rebounding perspective, talk a bit about the defensive abilities of ORU and what Texas Tech should expect.

SM: When ORU was annually winning the Summit League tournament from 2005-06 to 2007-2008, it typically had the best defense in the league and one of the better defenses in the country (it ranked 39th nationally in defensive efficiency in 07-08). In recent years they've gone away from that, with last year being the first in seven years that they allowed opponents to average more than a point per possession. Even with a less than amazing defense, ORU made the Summit conference tournament championship game last year. Now it seems they have gotten back to the basics and embraced defense, which is one reason why they're off to this strong start. They're forcing turnovers at a good rate, limiting opposing teams' trips to the charity stripe, and defending the perimeter fairly well. The one area of slight concern is in the paint where they're allowing opponents to make just north of 50 percent of their twos. That's not a porous mark by any means, but it suggest opponents can pound it inside on ORU.