The Western Illinois Leathernecks look for a little revenge when they face the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles on Sunday, one day after falling to them by four. The matchup is the second in two days between these two teams and will wrap up the Summit League regular season for both.
Western Illinois (7-13) had been red hot heading into Saturday’s contest, winning five straight — their only five wins against conference foes this season. The Leathernecks are locked into seventh place in the conference standings, putting them into this week’s Summit League tournament.
Oral Roberts (12-10) still has some work to do regarding its seeding for the tournament. A second-straight win against the Leathernecks, coupled with a North Dakota State loss at first-place South Dakota on Sunday, would push the Golden Eagles to third in the conference standings. That would avoid a potential second-round matchup with South Dakota.
The win on Saturday snapped a two-game losing streak for Oral Roberts, which comes into this game with a 9-5 mark against conference foes.
If you’re going to bet online on this contest, Oral Roberts is an 8½-point favorite, with the over/under set at 162½.
The Leathernecks headed into a Jan. 30 contest with North Dakota having lost eight straight and without a conference victory. Six games later, they’ve made college basketball news as they’ve gone 5-1, with the only loss being by four points on Saturday.
The five-game conference winning streak snapped Saturday was the longest for Western Illinois since the 2012-13 season. The streak also included two series sweeps of a conference opponent (Omaha, Denver) which the Leathernecks hadn’t accomplished since the 2015-16 season.
Leading the way has been senior guard Will Carius, who is averaging a team-best 15.5 points per game. Carius had scored 20 or more points in four straight games prior to managing just 10 in Saturday’s loss, though he did grab nine rebounds. He’s hit a team-high 51 3-pointers, connecting on 41.8% of his shots from beyond the arc.
Junior guard Colton Sandage is averaging just 8.8 points per game this season, but he erupted for a career-high 32 points in Saturday’s loss, including tying a school record with nine 3-pointers. Freshman forward Ramean Hinton had his first career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while junior forward Tamell Pearson had one with 12 points and 10 boards.
Sophomore guard Max Abmas enters Sunday’s game with a new title: nation’s leading scorer. Abmas had a 41-point game in Saturday’s win, pushing him to 24.7 points per game on the season, just above Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis and Iowa’s Luka Garza, who are each averaging 24.3 points.
Abmas’ individual effort was the highlight of the Golden Eagles’ comeback from 10 points down with seven minutes to play. Oral Roberts closed on an 18-4 run, overcoming a double-digit deficit for the third time this season.
Abmas made a career-high 13 made free throws in the win and has now scored at least 30 points in four straight games. The Golden Eagles were 22-of-25 from the charity stripe and rank second in the nation in free-throw percentage at .815.
The Golden Eagles don’t just have Abmas to rely on offensively, as Kevin Obanor is averaging 19.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. The junior forward had 20 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s win, his seventh 20-point, 10-rebound effort of the season.
Too Much To Handle
Western Illinois has been much improved over the last few weeks, but it wasn’t enough to hang on and beat the college basketball odds against the potent Golden Eagles offense on Saturday. Although Abmas might not go for 41 again, it’s likely that Sandage won’t be as hot from the perimeter either.
This one should be another good game, with both teams putting up some solid scoring numbers. But in the end, we like the two ORU scorers to take control late.
When making your college basketball picks, give the 8½ points and go with the Golden Eagles.