Having potentially escaped the shadow of consecutive frustrating performances, the University of South Dakota men’s basketball team were instead dealt an even bitter pill.
A one-point loss in which a possible game-winning layup was thwarted.
Oral Roberts overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and benefited from a no-call at the buzzer to rally past the Coyotes 73-72 in a high-energy, physical Summit League matchup Saturday afternoon at the DakotaDome.
Once the dust had settled, the Coyotes (10-13, 4-5) were left to again pick up the pieces from a losing effort – their third straight in league play.
“Especially when we’ve lost two in a row and we really needed to get a win to get yourself back on track, this one definitely stings,” said senior Brandon Bos, who scored 16 points.
“Any time you lose by one, it hits you pretty hard, and this one definitely did.”
Having scored 50 and 55 points in the two previous games, USD shot 48 percent and led for 37 of 40 minutes, but still came up just short to the Golden Eagles (12-10, 5-3).
“Everyone says, ‘You lose by one, it doesn’t come down to one play,’” head coach Craig Smith said. “But there’s a defining moment though where you can make a play.”
That defining play came just ahead of the final horn.
Junior reserve Eric Robertson put USD ahead 72-71 with a pair of free throws with 36.1 seconds to play. ORU’s Denell Henderson was then fouled on the ensuing trip and his two foul shots gave the Golden Eagles a 73-72 edge.
Following a pair of missed free throws by Oral Roberts, USD, though, had a chance to win. Senior Tyler Larson drew contact on a drive to the basket with two seconds left, but no foul was called, and ORU grabbed the ball as time expired.
“After the shot, a hundred things went through my head for what I could’ve done different,” said Larson, who finished with eight points and 11 rebounds.
“You’ve just got to make that play. Especially this being your last year, you may never get to make that play too many more times.”
Oral Roberts, though, did make the key plays down the stretch.
The Coyotes led by as many as 11 points, 57-46, midway through the second half, but struggled to string together stops against an aggressive Golden Eagles squad.
Conversely, USD was able to get to the free throw line on a consistent basis, but a 22-of-33 performance at the line had Smith and his player scratching their heads afterword – the Coyotes shot 73 percent on the season.
“If you say to me we’re going to shoot 48 percent and shoot 33 free throws, we’re probably going to win nine out of ten times,” Smith said. “And this was the one time we didn’t.”
The Golden Eagles got a game-high 24 points from Obi Emegano, as well as 14 points from Henderson and 11 off the bench from Albert Owens.
Junior Casey Kasperbauer added 16 points for the Coyotes, who are off until Friday when they host Western Illinois. For now, though, they’ve got to figure out how to move on.
“We’ve got no choice but to move forward,” Larson said. “We can’t let this game affect us the next game.”
Oral Roberts def. South Dakota 72-71
Halftime: USD 39-29. Three-Pointers: USD 6-14 (Kasperbauer 4-7, Bos 2-3, Larson 0-1, Burnette 0-3), ORU 4-17 (Emegano 1-1, Lee 1-3, Word 1-4, Webber 1-4, Harris 0-1, Singleton 0-1, Billbury 0-3). Total Rebounds: ORU 35 (Billbury 10), USD 34 (Larson 11). Assists: USD 9 (Norris 5), ORU 7 (Billbury 3). Turnovers: ORU 6, USD 10. Personal Fouls: USD 23, ORU 24. Fouled Out: Burnette. Attendance: 2064.