Oral Roberts (7-4) at (8) Xavier (8-0)
Sunday, December 18th, 1:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cintas Center (10,250) -- Cincinnati, Ohio. Television: FSN-OH. Home Record: Oral Roberts 5-0, Xavier 6-0. Away Record: Oral Roberts 1-3, Xavier 2-0. Neutral Record: Oral Roberts 1-1, Xavier 0-0. Conference Record: Oral Roberts 1-0, Xavier 0-0. Series Record: Xavier leads, 10-7.
GAME NOTES: The eighth-ranked Xavier Musketeers were one of just nine undefeated teams nationally heading into this weekend's action, and they will attempt to remain unblemished as they host the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles today.
Losses in two of the last three games have dropped Oral Roberts to 7-4 overall, and the most recent defeat came on Thursday at Gonzaga by a 67-61 final. The Golden Eagles, who are 1-0 in Summit League play to date, are just 1-3 in true road games thus far.
Xavier has been idle since a 76-53 romp over rival Cincinnati on December 10th, but that game made national news for the brawl that erupted on the court rather than for the Musketeer's dominant performance. Because of the fiasco, Xavier will play without three of its top four scorers this afternoon, so moving to 9-0 may not be a given. With wins over Vanderbilt and Purdue in the bag, Xavier has been impressive to say the least.
The Musketeers hold a 10-7 series edge over Oral Roberts, but the team's haven't met on the court since 1986-87.
Through 11 outings, Oral Roberts is scoring 67.4 ppg while allowing 63.0 ppg to opponents. The Golden Eagles are getting 15.9 ppg from Dominique Morrison, and Michael Craion checks in with 11.9 ppg and a team-best 7.1 rpg. Steven Roundtree is close behind in both scoring (10.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.4 rpg), and he rounds out the team's trio of double-digit scorers. Taking a look at the loss to Gonzaga on Thursday, Damen Bell-Holter paced the Golden Eagles from his center position with 16 points. Craion and Morrison added 13 points apiece, and Morrison also ripped down nine boards. Oral Roberts shot an identical 12-of-30 from the floor in both halves, and that simply wasn't good enough to beat the Bulldogs on the road. A 14-8 deficit in points from the foul line certainly didn't help the cause.
The fact that Xavier starting guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons are both suspended for today's tilt is a major blow, as they combine for 35 ppg. Lyons paces the team with 17.4 ppg on 50.5 percent shooting from the field, while Holloway, the reigning Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year, is close behind with 17.4 ppg while leading the way with 34 assists and 17 steals. Dezmine Wells has been suspended for four games for his role in the brawl, and his 9.5 ppg will be missed. The only player for the Musketeers averaging more than 5.9 ppg that will be active today is Kenny Frease, as the big man provides 9.6 ppg and 6.3 rpg. Xavier averages 74.1 ppg while holding foes to 61.1 ppg on 34.9 percent field goal efficiency, but maintaining those numbers shorthanded will be difficult to say the least. After all, Lyons, Holloway and Wells combined for 50 of the team's 76 points in the win over Cincinnati. The Musketeers shot 51.8 percent from the floor in that affair and held the Bearcats to 27.9 percent efficiency.
This seems like the perfect opportunity for Oral Roberts to knock the Musketeers from the ranks of the unbeaten. The game may still be competitive, but the Golden Eagles have to get the nod.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oral Roberts 65, Xavier 62
12/18 10:42:44 ET