From ORU Sports Information
TULSA, Okla. – McNeese State’s Arianna James hit a second-chance jumper at the buzzer to lift the Cowgirls over Oral Roberts University, 72-71, on Saturday night at the Mabee Center.
The loss drops ORU to 8-10 on the season, while McNeese improves to 10-9. Both clubs are 5-3 in Southland Conference play.
The Golden Eagles led by as many as 11 points in the first half and held a seven-point lead going into the halftime locker room. The loss is just the second this season for Misti Cussen’s club when leading at the break.
Jaci Bigham and Taylor Cooper combined to hit 10 three-pointers on the night, and both players scored 20 points each to pace the Golden Eagles. Sarah Shelton tallied a double-double for the second straight game, with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
As a team, the Golden Eagles hit 12 three-pointers, a season-high.
Caitlyn Baggett led the Cowgirls with 15 points. MSU won the battle of the glass, collecting 39 rebounds to ORU’s 34. McNeese was especially strong on the offensive glass, turning 18 offensive rebounds into 29 second-chance points.
ORU took control of the game with an early 13-2 run. Bigham hit a pair of three-pointers during the spurt, giving the Golden Eagles a 13-6 lead at the 16:05 mark.
Bigham again took charge midway through the half to give the Golden Eagles their first 10-point lead. Back-to-back threes stretched the lead to 30-20 with 8:25 left in the half.
Cooper hit all four of her outside attempts in the first half, none bigger than her final basket of the half. The three-ball gave ORU a 42-35 lead heading into the halftime locker room.
Bigham and Cooper scored 14 points apiece in the opening half, with each player draining four three-pointers in the first 20 minutes. As a team, ORU was 9-for-14 from three-point land in the period.
McNeese came out of the locker room on fire, using a 10-2 rally to grab the lead away. An Allison Baggett jumper with 15:31 left put the visitors ahead, 49-48.
The teams traded the lead nine times in the second half, with neither club leading by more than three points in the game’s final 17:31. ORU’s final field goal came with 1:08 left, a Bigham jumper to stretch the Golden Eagle advantage to 71-68.
ORU would not score again, and James hit the final two baskets of the game. The first came with 42 seconds left, a layup that cut the lead to 71-70.
The Golden Eagles turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, and McNeese got the ball back with 25 seconds on the clock and the shot clock turned off. Baggett missed a contested jumper in the lane, but James was there for the stick back at the buzzer, stealing the victory for McNeese.
The buzzer-beater loss is the first for the Golden Eagles since January 9, 2010, a 74-72 setback against IPFW.
ORU will look to regroup on Thursday, January 31 when they face Nicholls State. Tipoff at the Mabee Center is scheduled for 5 pm CT.
Rob Walden is the Assistant Director of Media Relations at Oral Roberts University.